Monday, May 30, 2005


READ THIS BOOK: The Time Traveler's Wife

I haven't done any book reviews on blog yet. It's not that I don't read a lot of books, it's just that I've always thought people who review books must have much bigger brains than me.

I think it's because I read so quickly, I miss a lot of the deeper stuff in books. When someone points out the dramatic elements like symbolism, or foreshadowing, or dominant themes and motifs, I can certainly see what they're talking about. But when I read, I don't notice that stuff consciously. I can go back and pick it out after the fact, but I don't usually absorb it as part of the book-devouring process.

Twice in my government career I've had my English language skills evaluated, and both times it echoed the comments I've received on almost every academic paper or thesis I've ever written: superior technical language skills, but the analysis needs a little work.

In other words, I'm all flash and no substance.

Which is why I've always been a little shy about even joining a book club, let alone standing up here all by myself to do a book review without a net (that net being someone else who can do all the talking so I can nod sagely and engagingly and look like what they are saying is just the bon mot I was about to utter.)

Also, if I'm going to do a book review, it would probably make sense to wait until I've actually finished the book. I'm only about ten per cent of the way in.

I'm going to throw all that to the wolves, however, because I am itching to talk to somebody about this book and at least blog sits still and listens patiently and doesn't get that glazed look in its eye like it would rather be filing its taxes than listen to me drone on when I haven't even half of an idea what I'm talking about. Right?

The book is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I can't remember the last time I was so captivated by a book from the first page. I don't want to give away anything about it, because I really think this book should be approached as I approached it, with absolutely no idea what everyone was going on about. Let me just quote this from the book jacket:

When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. He is a hip librarian; she is a beautiful art student. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six...
It's a love story, a mystery, just the tiniest bit sci-fi/fantasy but not in a hobbits and ogres sort of way. As I said, I'm only 50-odd pages in, but I can't stop thinking about it. Normally, I read very quickly, and it's 500+ pages long, so I have a lot to look forward to, yet I find myself already slowing down to savour this one - I think I'll be sad when the last page is turned.

Thank you bunches to Nancy for recommending this one way back before Christmas. I had requested it from the library, and was three zillionth in the queue, and when it finally came in I forgot to go and pick it up so had to re-queue for it all over again.

Ironically, I've realized that if it keeps up being this good for the next 450 pages I will have to buy my very own copy. (See, even though I don't always notice them in the text, I can use most dramatic elements correctly -- unlike fellow Ottawan Alanis, who really does need a lesson on what is and is not ironic.)

So I guess this isn't so much a critique as a recommendation. A very spirited, long-winded and circuitious recommendation. Have you read it? What did you think? (No spoilers, please.)