Time-travel…it’s something that has fascinated me for a long time. I am a big fan of the Back to the Future trilogy. So I was looking forward to reading this book by Audrey Niffenegger.
So what’s this book about? Well, it’s about a man, Henry, who has a genetic condition that results in him time-travelling. The kind of time-travelling he does is a bit different from those in the know of Back to the Future. Usually, under times of stress, he will find that he has time-travelled either into his past or his future. When he does time-travel, anything that is not part of his body remains in the original spot. So yes, that means clothes. When he is transported to the past or future, he is naked and has to try to get clothes for himself. In the process, he has learnt to steal or to break and enter places.
During this process, he meets his wife, Clare, as a child. He tells this 7-year old who believes him that they meet in the future and know each other in the future. He later does tell her that they are married.
The book basically follows the life of Henry and Clare — Henry as a child, Henry as an adult. Clare as a child and Clare as an adult.
Now for the review part.
What did I like about the book?
- It was a different kind of book. I don’t read science-fiction and I wouldn’t classify this as sci-fi even though the theme is one. I would say the genre is drama
- It’s engaging and easy to read provided you don’t get into the logistics of time travel and wonder how the past Henry and present Henry can meet without people thinking something seriously wrong is going on here
- It keeps you interested
What I did not like:
- The biggest thing I didn’t like about the book was its message on destiny. The book basically says that your life is mapped out for you and there is nothing you can do to change it. I found myself questioning that as I do not believe it. I lean more towards the ‘Back to the Future’ style where you can create your own future by things you do now. On the other hand in the book, it’s like no matter what you do the end result is written and that’s that. I found myself questioning why Clare couldn’t choose to be with someone other than Henry? There was a period in her life when he wasn’t even present. If she did not ‘know’ the future, would she have chosen differently? I mean, how much of what he told her, influenced her decision to want to find him and be with him? How much of that then, in turn, influence his present self to be with Clare when she told him what his future self had told her (Sorry if that’s confusing…but I hope you get the drift). So yeah, I believe we create our future and don’t like the idea of it being mapped out for us. And that was my biggest gripe with this book.
- The other bit that I didn’t like too much was the relationship between Clare as a child with Henry from the future in his 30s. I do not give a damn about age differences in love provided both parties are consenting adults. Even though there is nothing sexual mentioned, it’s still a bit on the creepy side. Picture this: a 7-year-old child seeing a naked 30-year-old man. It probably has to do with my profession of working with kids and adolescents, but I did not like those sections especially because the teenage Clare talks about wanting him to kiss her etc and Henry thinking “no I can’t do this” even though there are descriptions of how he thinks she has changed physically when she hits puberty. In some weird way, it seems to be condoning paedophilia.
I guess, all in all, if you just want a light read, this is good. But it’d be better not to think too much about it or think too deeply. Because then, you will probably have the same ‘meh’ feeling I did. It was good but not great.
Until next time,