What’s Worse Than A Long Distance Relationship?

July 19, 2007

A relationship that happens to span not only space, but time as well. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger has been on my bookshelf for a while now, and I’ve read it twice. It was one of those books that everyone you knew was reading/raving about/contemplating reading/has bought and stashed away for when they finally get some time to theirselves to read it. Oftentimes books that dominate the zeitgeist for a while are a bit of a letdown. Sentimental drivel at best *cough*The Alchemist*cough*, and wannabe-philosophical nonsense at worse *cough*Life of Pi*cough*, I find that it’s usually best to find someone you know and trust who reads everything anyway to give you their opinion *cough*me*cough*. Trust me when I say – this is a fantastic book.

When Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were still a happily married couple, they bought the movie rights to this book before the book was released to the public. I don’t know how exactly I feel about that (the rights purchase, not the split – although, now that you mention it, I do feel pretty badly for Aniston, especially the way Pitt is getting his mug into every mag with the other woman all the damn time. No offence meant to Angelina Jolie who I completely respect as a human being for her work as a UN ambassador and for highlighting international adoption in the way she has) seeing as how it is a pretty sappy story and an extremely light and expert touch is required to properly tell the story, imho.

Audrey Niffenegger epitomizes the “light and expert touch” I’m talking about when I fret about the eventual big screen rendition. The book could have so easily degenerated into a melodrama (sponsored by KleenexTM[1]) but it didn’t. It chronicles the relationship between an ordinary woman and her husband who has a genetic mutation that causes him to time travel unexpectedly. When he travels he is unable to take anything but his raw physical form with him. No clothes, not even the fillings in his teeth. This of course poses several significant problems as he transcends time as well as space whenever an “attack” occurs.

About halfway through the book, we come to a dawning realization that this is a doomed relationship. Nonetheless, we are compelled to continue reading because of the strength and depth of the characters she paints.

Parallel to the excellent portraiture is an amazing illustration of what time travel would be like in a practical sense. Issues like pre-destination and the advantage of future knowledge (only once does Henry use this knowledge to profit) are addressed thoughtfully, making this more than just another romantic story. For this reason, this is an excellent book to pick up for that geek in your life that only reads hard-core sci-fi lit. If they sniff at your selection, you can bring up the fact that Audrey Niffenegger is also an acclaimed graphic novelist whose work has been compared to Edward Gorey.

[1] In a complete aside about Kleenex and its parent company, Kimberly-Clark: Everyone should know that these one-use products are made from the pulp of ancient forests and that the logging conducted by Kimberly-Clark is completely unsustainable. They have drafted a proposal to eventually log all of Canada’s boreal forests, which happen to be the only habitat for many plant and animal species. And c’mon, even if it’s not, there is something very perverse about wiping your bum with material sourced from the oldest living organisms around. And if you think you can just buy some other brand, you can’t, really. Kimberly-Clark produces most of the tissue/toilet paper/kitchen towels on the market. For more information (including what you can do about this travesty) visit Kleercut.net.


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