Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Time Travelling

The film Time Traveller's Wife was a suprisingly good one. It managed to encapsulate a truly original, clever and suprisingly romantic story very well. However, I have to confess that in this instance the film was far more enjoyable than the book.

Not that the writing of the novel isn't superb. Audrey Niffennegger has some truly beautiful scenes and phrases and the dialogue and characters are very real. Chapters can end beautifully like this...

'She wrote me a poem', Clare says again in wonder. Tears are streaking down her cheeks. I put my arms around her and she's back, my wife, Clare, safe and sound, on the shore at last after the shipwreck, weeping like a little girl whose mother is waving to her from the deck of the foundering boat.'

It's just that it is far too long drawn out and over detailed. Every person is described in full, every little scene played out and most of the happenings are simply commonplace and unexciting explorations of family life. I appreciate that the attempted normality of the lives of the two main characters, Clare and Henry, contrasts with Henry DeTamble's strange affliction that causes him to travel back and forth in time, split into two people so that he is able to visit himself as a young boy, and other extraordinary happenings. In some respects it expresses how little we know and understand about people who we imagine we know intimately well. This is all brilliantly handled and at first one is enthralled and captured by the plot. But I'm half way through the book and now really tired of Henry's excursions back and forth, beginning to skip through chunks of words, wondering where it's all going, if it's going to get anywhere at all and if I care anymore.

Audrey, darling, we've got the idea of what happens when Henry suddenly leaves one dimension...and his clothes... behind him. You don't have to have scene after scene after scene...

How come editors shriek at one for two words of over-description and nobody made this writer delete some of her scenes and chapters to make this a far more readable story? Don't get me wrong. I love long stories. As a child I read War and Peace in two days. Try Edward Rutherford's amazing works like London, Russia, Sarum and so on. They are riveting from start to finish and truly satisfying. TTW is like having a delicious and enjoyable cake which is then served up at every meal till one is sick to death of the taste of it.
It strives to be spiritual and poignant and indeed, many scenes are just that; much sense is spoken, many deep questions and avenues explored and I know I shan't forget the essence of this story.

In the end, we all look for different things in a book. My daughter found The Time Traveller's Wife 'entrancing'. So that's a fair enough comment.

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Favourite Quotes

  • My home is my retreat and resting place from the wars: I try to keep this corner as a haven against the tempest outside, as I do another corner of my soul. Michelle de Montaigne
  • Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony: Mahatma Gandhi
  • Friends are people you can be quiet with. Anon.