Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife. A delicious fluffy layer-cake of a story. I loved the holey time-addled story line (and while chronological impairment is a plot gimmick, it's fun, enlivened the plot, and provided an excuse to talk about the nature of love, identity, and choice). Henry and Claire were lovable, their friends and family were perhaps even more interesting, and the setting in and around Chicago was an extra layer of icing. But I wish Claire had more of her own identity. So much of her self was wrapped up in Henry, waiting for him, helping him, loving him - although I suppose she was essentially a child-bride and so perhaps that level of entanglement is not surprising. I really wonder about her art. Were her thoughts expressed in her sculptures alone and hidden from us? Perhaps not, since most of her works that were described also seemed to revolve around her relationship with Henry or around Henry himself. I would have found the love story more powerful if I felt they both had stronger identities- Henry apart from his time-wandering, and Claire apart from Henry. But I suppose that our personalities are often constrained and defined by the happenstance of our lives.


Nicole said...

I thought Claire's lack of identity was intentional and what made her story so heart-wrenching. She never had any choice about where her life was going to go. It was about the years of waiting to meet the man she always knew she would meet, the years of being with the man, then the years of waiting for the man she knew she would see again but had no way of knowing when. She was robbed of having a childhood before she met present Henry and robbed of moving on with her life after Henry died. What kind of life or identity can you have for yourself under those circumstances?

gwen said...

I think you're exactly right. It made the story so frustrating for me. I resented Henry for the whole thing, and it wasn't entirely his fault. I had an axe to grind. I wanted her to fight him! Or dump him when she finally met him, at least. I hate predestination and I always have. I suppose it's because I'm not one of the elect.

Nicole said...

I was really mad that he let her know that she would see him again. He should have let her go. Did you see the movie? They screwed the end up majorly. They saw each other again while she was still young... in the meadow all happy and huggy. So it was all warm fuzzies instead of being so profoundly tragic. I don't know how the author could have agreed to let them take away the entire emotional impact of her book.