27 January 2009

Writing on Reading: The Time Traveler's Wife

I recently reread The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger from 2003. What an interesting book on several levels! The author writes in present tense and the prose is very stream-of-consciousness. Approximately 95% of the book is narrative or the protagonists thoughts--beautifully done. Clearly, this author is a gifted writer and the book is easy to devour. However, as a writer, I do have a nitpick: the minds of the two protagonists (a man and a woman!) are indistinguishable.

The book also raises some issues such as, what is genre? This book was considered "mainstream" rather than science fiction, despite the time travel. I think this is because of the writer's style (see above) and because of the sad and disturbing ending.

Upon further consideration, this story is really only a love story. The author does an excellent job showing the ups and downs of relationships between a romantic couple and among family members. The time travel is just the problem the couple deals with; any disease would do. In particular, I did not like that the time-traveling protagonist never tries to alter "fate"--at least we never see him try. His mother dies in a car accident and he visits the accident scene many times, but does he ever time-travel to an hour before and tell her not to get into the car? He knows about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance and doesn't try anything. Why not go to the towers and pull the fire alarms before the planes come at least?
Thus as a love story, this novel was lovely, but as time-travel, it left something to be desired.

What did you think?

Ooh, and they made a movie of it, starring Eric Bana as Henry and Rachel McAdams as Clare, with Robert Schwentke directing. This appears to be in post-production oblivion however? Possibly being released this year? Does anyone know anything about this?


fairyhedgehog said...

I loved the book while I read it and it's interesting to see your analysis, which picks up on things that I missed.

I was so swept along by the story that I didn't even think about him trying to change things.

lesleylsmith said...

It is very easy to get swept along. Niffenegger has a real gift.