Friday, April 23, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife by: Audrey Niffenegger


Audrey Niffenegger's innovative debut, The Time Traveler's Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's marriage and their passionate love for each other, as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals — steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.
I had really high hopes for this book after hearing some of the awesome reviews people had given it. So, maybe it's my fault for placing it on such a high pedestal. I really should learn to stop doing that.
Not to say I was completely disappointed with this book, but it wasn't what I thought it would be. I think the layout of the story was really confusing and disorganized at times, I had to frequently check back for dates and just trying to keep everything straight was sometimes difficult. And I didn't really like that it was in present tense. It read less like a story, and more like a diary at times.
I also didn't like how Niffenegger would introduce a character, and then we wouldn't hear about them for one hundred plus pages. I think some of them were just tools for her to develop the character. Like, there was really no point to Ingrid or Celia in the story (although I thought Ingrid was one of the more interesting characters. I wanted to know more about hers and Henry's relationship). I also think that alternating POVs, while I can understand why Niffenegger did that, I do think it delayed developing the characters big time. I didn't really start caring about the two main characters until more than two hundred pages in. They just seemed like characters I'd seen before. The girl who is always waiting on a guy, and the guy who is crazily fucked up who gets "saved" by this girl.
The plot was also lacking a little. It wasn't strong. This was definitely a character driven story, not a plot driven story. I think after a while it was just a story about how these two people cannot seem to overcome all these horrible things being thrown at them. And, really, a lot of horrible things happened to them. At one point in the story, I wondered if Niffenegger hated her own characters for everything she put them through.
That said, Niffenegger knows how to write. Her prose was really well done. Details were spot on. She had very clear concise pictures. So that was definitely well done. At times, the writing was a little cheesy, like the note Henry wrote to Clare at the end of the novel. That was just unrealistic to me. Here's this guy, librarian or not, who drinks and is quite fond of drugs and punk music, the tone of the note just seemed completely out of character. The note was more unrealistically written than him time traveling.
In all, this isn't a sweeping romantic tale. At least not in my opinion. It was a well written novel, with sort of developed characters that had somewhat shaky motives for the things they did, and an interesting premise. Worth a read, but I'd recommend you borrow it from the library before buying it.
Overall rating: 6/10

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cranford by: Elizabeth Gaskell


With a series of sketches, the novel lovingly describes the "adventures" of middle-aged ladies in the quiet country village of Cranford in the 1830's. Despite their poverty, residents of the village are kind, decent, and thoroughly proper.


I had to read Cranford for a class I'm taking. It was a pretty pleasant read. It's slow and hard to get into at first, but about halfway through the novel the overall quaintness of the town and its inhabitants kept me interested. Miss Matty was just a sweetheart, and I liked the main character (though I didn't like how you don't learn her name until the end of the book). The novel is written almost as a series of short stories about the town, instead of a continuing plot. There are continuing themes throughout the novel, but each chapter is,  essentially, its own story. I liked that. I think that was partly due to the fact that Cranford was a serial publication.

If you're interested in British literature, I would definitely recommend Cranford. It contrasts with a lot of the ideas in society at the time, but reflects some also. And the atmosphere of the small town works to the novel's advantage.

In all, I didn't hate the novel, but I don't know if I'll ever reread it. It's pleasant enough for one read through.

Overall rating: 7/10