A Love that transcends time and death
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The book I read last is ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s a strange love story of Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. Henry is a victim of a strange genetic disorder called "Chromo-Impairment" which causes him to time travel. He doesn’t have any control over the time or the destination or the duration of his travels. The genetic disorder causes him to time travel spontaneously when he is stressed out or tired, physically or emotionally.
As a rule of time traveling, Henry cannot take anything with him other than his body. He lands naked and bare footed. He explains the sensation of time travel as of epilepsy and it makes him hungry. So Henry masters the arts of stealing and breaking into places necessary for his survival.
Most of Henry’s visits were to his past where he witnesses the accident which took his mother away or the visits to a museum with his parents. And on one of his travels he meets his future wife Clare Abshire. Clare is from a rich family living in a large house. She is fond of a clearing of land in the middle of the meadow where she spends her time playing. On one fine day, when Clare is in the clearing, Henry lands in front of her stark naked… Henry is 28 and Clare is 6…
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Clare is fascinated by the stranger who gives her glimpses of her future. Henry gives her a list of dates on which he will be appearing from the future. Clare keeps this as her secret and she waits expectantly for Henry on the dates he has given. She keeps a box of clothes and shoes hidden for him under a rock in the clearing. She gets so obsessed with her strange companion that she tends to ignore boyfriends at school and spends a lot of time by her own. At her 18th birthday they part knowing that they would be meeting only after 2 years and in the present. Henry tells her he is her future husband.
After 2 years, Clare meets Henry in the future as a librarian but Henry is completely ignorant of her or their meetings in the meadow because the Henry who came to visit Clare is still in the future and the present Henry is not aware of this. But Clare is foretold by Henry about this and she patiently fills Henry with their story. For the first time, Clare is the future teller. Later the book reveals their struggle to lead a normal life and their struggle to overcome his condition.
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The novel at its heart is not about the fiction or technicalities of time travel or Henry’s disorder. The core of this novel is the relationship of Henry and Clare. It circles around their life, friends, families and passion. Once you are fully engrossed in the book you can feel their joy, their pain and their desperation. The narration is on a normal pace without much twists and turns. The talent of the author lies in making an unrealistic theme like time travel in a way that seems pretty real and possible. Her writing style is simple which helps in telling a story which would have become extremely complicated to convey. She overcomes the inherent difficulties of narrating a story with numerous time swaps. To add to the complexity the story is narrated through the eyes of both Clare and Henry. But Niffenegger seamlessly rides over these difficulties with consummate ease.
Though Henry can be there in the past, he cannot change anything. And at many instances we can feel the pain in knowing it in advance and incapable of changing it. That makes it different from the usual science fiction novel. By concentrating instead on the emotional struggles of the chief characters Niffenegger brings a delightful human touch to the story.
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Time Traveler’s wife is a thoroughly enjoyable read for all those who have romance in their hearts. It is tale of love that transcends time and death and which will move you for sure. I am even looking forward to its movie version set to star Eric Bana and Rache McAdams.