Saturday, 17 March 2012

Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveller’s Wife

This one was an optional university set text and a highly acclaimed/much talked about book. I couldn’t help but see what the fuss was about. Also the concept of time travel has always fascinated me and I’m always interested to see how different authors go about obeying the rules and, most of time, breaking them.

However, being ground-breaking in crossing genre’s doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good book. In fact, despite all its dressing up, it is essentially still Chick Lit, the story of how much a girl loves a guy and cries all the time. The main difference between this book and most of other Chick Lit is that nine times out of ten, the guy is actually doing something massively stupid in order to upset his female counterpart. So when Clare starts getting angry with Henry, I really sympathised with him; and also thought Clare was a massive twat. Granted, it is hard having a relationship with someone who is away a lot, but it’s the whole ‘not appreciating how amazing the situation is and treating it like it’s normal’ that I can’t never accept from characters (more on this in the next review), and Clare epitomises this throughout the novel.

Also, it feels like an absolute waste to use an original concept of a man constantly travelling through time on something as mundane as getting married and having a relationship. Concepts are only original once and to use time travel to effectively commit paedophilia and sleep with your wife behind your own back seems wasteful.

I also find that with these novels based in the real world, there is always a get around with money. In this instance, money being a problem is removed from the equation by Henry being able to win the lottery at a whim. At least the story makes this viable where as in Jules Hardy’s Altered Land is was by pure chance that one of the main characters invested in Microsoft and could afford to be an alcoholic.

However apart from that, there is something else that made me switch off completely and the same thing happened with Byatt’s The Children’s Book and Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music. Niffenegger spends a lot of time talking about art. Incidentally, she herself is an artist. It’s this sort of stuff which really grinds my gears. Authors writing about stuff they want to write about, going into huge amounts of unnecessary detail which don’t add to the story at all. It’s only there for the author’s benefit, not the readers. Clare could have been anything as a character, but because Niffenegger is an artist, Clare’s an artist too! It would be the same as me writing about working in an office, going into vast details of what I do from day to day, which would be really fucking dull. And no one cares.

I’m being a tad unfair by lumping Seth and Byatt in with this as they actually researched their subject matter whereas as Niffeneger has copied and pasted something she already knew a lot about.

That said, the book is still good, just not great as it could have been with a little more stuff going on that just chasing a girl through time. Who was it chasing time through a girl, I’m not quite sure.

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was published by Jonathan Cape in 2004. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)

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