I read this first as a child, when I was about 9, and I loved it. I've tried reading it every few years since then, and unfortunately, I haven't read...moreI read this first as a child, when I was about 9, and I loved it. I've tried reading it every few years since then, and unfortunately, I haven't read this since 1997...ten years ago!! I ought to make time to re-read this one of these days.(less)
Loved this novel so much, I gave it to two friends as presents and forced Jim to read it! I'm telling everyone I know to read this book - it's just fa...moreLoved this novel so much, I gave it to two friends as presents and forced Jim to read it! I'm telling everyone I know to read this book - it's just fantastic. Very quick read, too.(less)
What a FABULOUS book - great narrative, beautifully written, utterly captivating, a highly intelligent novel. After reading that abysmal Ken Follett b...moreWhat a FABULOUS book - great narrative, beautifully written, utterly captivating, a highly intelligent novel. After reading that abysmal Ken Follett book (Pillars of the Earth), I really felt like I needed something to cleanse me of that dross. Since every review I read about this book pointed towards the positive, I gave it a shot. And what a surprise - I was so completely drawn to it that I finished it in 2 days. I couldn't put it down. In fact, I didn't want it to end. I kept going back to certain passages in the text, trying to prolong the story, all the while reinforcing my understanding of these characters and their experiences.
Donoghue is one of those gifted writers - for his first effort as a novelist, this work was just absolutely wondrous. He wrote simply but effectively; he didn't have to resort to outlandish drama or hyperbole. No elaborate plot twists, no florid writing. Just simple storytelling, honest, sometimes raw, drawing on emotions both primitive and complex. He didn't have a need to spell everything out or to tie everything neatly into one square package (he may actually be one of those writers who truly believes that not every particular in a story has to be explained - that mysteries serve a purpose, and that some mysteries are better left undiscovered). Most importantly, he made no assumptions of the reader (I really hate it when writers dumb things down to appeal to all readers, or are so disdainful of "regular" readers that they ostracize them with their condescending tones and know-it-all attitudes) - he just wrote.
It was highly literary - no more so than when two of the changelings discover the library and the wonders within - but it was also accessible. There was enough explanatory material that you didn't feel like you were hobbled by what you didn't know. The corollary to that is also true: that if you did know a good amount about any of the topics in the story, that there was still something you could learn. The entire narrative was a study in dichotomies: the weaving of the two stories, the two different points of views, mortal vs. immortal, young vs. old, wild vs. civilized. The narrative was the epitome of the yin-yang. After all, these two stolen children made up one person, one complementing the other, each one incomplete until their stories and lives commingled at the end. By that point, each one was ready to move on, having accepted their natures and the roles they played in each other's lives.(less)
I am not a linear book-reader. That is, I rarely ever read a book contiguously, from start to finish. I have a very bad habit of reading the last doze...moreI am not a linear book-reader. That is, I rarely ever read a book contiguously, from start to finish. I have a very bad habit of reading the last dozen or so pages first, just to see if I will like the story. (It's a bit irrational; I don't know what I'm looking for, but somehow, reading those last words gives me an impression of what to expect, of whether I should buy a book or pass on it, or even if I will like a book or not.) Personally, I don't think that reading the end first takes anything away from the story since I don't know what led up to it, and I often feel (strangely) rewarded at the end by those "aha!" moments when what I know of the ending becomes evident. Still, I know it drives some people (i.e., Jim) crazy, and for that, apologies. Once I start reading, I also have a tendency to go back to certain sections repeatedly (including the ending), thus prolonging the experience while also gaining more insight into the characters, situations, the language used, etc. So in many ways, my style of reading probably suited the way how this novel was written: the beginning presupposed the end, and the time traveling aspects of the story - jumping back and forth through time - did not detract from my going back and forth through the novel, either. It complemented it very well, in fact, that I am now a proud owner of a very dog-eared copy, with the binding a bit ragged and very nearly unglued. :-)
That said, I must say I really enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife. I stop short of claiming that I loved it only because there were parts of the novel - specifically towards the end - that bothered and frustrated me. My discomfiture, however, did not take anything away from relishing the narrative itself: I loved the characters, I loved the writing style, I loved the intelligence of both the author and the narrative. The prose - her writing, the attention to detail, the exquisite imagery - was sublime and oftentimes visceral. Sometimes what she wrote was almost too painful to read (in a good way). Similarly, the poetry was heartwrenching; it made me want to re-read Rilke, Homer and Dickinson (as well as Byatt's Possession) with a different lens. I did feel as if there were a few questions left unanswered in the end, such as, what happened to Alba? (Yes, the title of the book is not The Time Traveler's Daughter; I suppose what happened to Alba, in the grand scheme of things, is irrelevant since we find out what happens to Clare.)
The parts that troubled me the most occurred in the third part, at the end. Her one-word chapter titles, "Dissolution," "Dasein," and "Renascence" said more than enough. I found these last chapters the hardest to get through (I was telling Jim I could've finished the book 2 weeks ago, but I had to keep putting it down because there were parts I found extremely upsetting), even though they were probably the most critical chapters in the novel because, for the first time, it finally dealt with Clare after Henry. For as much as the novel was about Henry's wife, it was also his story, and a majority of the book dealt with their lives. They were inextricably linked through time and space for most of the book, but here, at the end, it was all about Clare. Clare alone, Clare lost, Clare trapped, Clare waiting.
Throughout the novel, Clare typified her art as being, simply, about birds and about longing. But as her story unfolded, her art became a metaphor for freedom: it became about finding her wings (and Henry's), and gaining freedom from the body, from time, from its intricacies and paradoxes, from the problems it caused, from the world. What was so unnerving, however, was the meaning behind those three chapter titles, and what happened in each chapter. Dissolution: disintegrating, breaking bonds, falling apart. Dasein: a being that is constituted by its temporality, something that illuminates and interprets the meaning of "Being in Time" and a way of choosing to either remain engaged in the world or distanced from it, all the while questioning what it means to be (now there's a throwback to my literary criticism days when we were studying Heidegger - I never liked Heidegger because everything was a circular argument; everything seemed paradoxical because everything seemed causal). And then Renascence: a rebirth, a renaissance.
There's a passage in the book, towards the end of the second part, when Henry says "The pain has receded but what's left is the shell of the pain, an empty space where there should be pain but instead there is the expectation of pain." During Dissolution and Dasein, Clare lived these words. Clare never achieved the freedom she longed for; her life and her freedom were directly linked to Henry's, and when he was gone, a part of her died with him, too. She becomes nothing more than a shell; someone who gives up her art, someone who just drives her daughter around, someone who is a part of the world, but is not engaged in it. Someone who just is. In Renascence, Clare finally creates something new. After decades of creating birds, wings, angels and drawings of Henry and Alba, she finally creates one of herself. And this new art form surprises her because it takes on a much bigger scope than anything she had created in the past: this time, it's a constellation, a galaxy, a universe of stars, and she's lost in the vastness of something so huge, so intangible. At the end, she states, "I regard my likeness, and she returns my gaze. I place my finger on her forehead and say 'Vanish,' but it is she who will stay; I am the one who is vanishing."
There is beauty in such tragedy, and that's what made it so hard to read, so hard to end.
I read this book, Wind from Hastings and Isles of the Blest in succession - I had finally found them through some obscure books website and I was so e...moreI read this book, Wind from Hastings and Isles of the Blest in succession - I had finally found them through some obscure books website and I was so excited to finally get my grubby little hands on them! And all three were worth all that trouble - very short Llewelyn books, but definitely wonderful stories. (less)
Stunning story-telling. I became so engrossed in the lives of these people, I actually had to create my own family tree for them, just so that I would...moreStunning story-telling. I became so engrossed in the lives of these people, I actually had to create my own family tree for them, just so that I wouldn't get lost as I read. Rutherford is one of my ultimate favorite authors.(less)
My all-time favorite Jane Austen novel!! I re-read this again for an independent study I did with Dr. Waterhouse during the summer of 2005, and as muc...moreMy all-time favorite Jane Austen novel!! I re-read this again for an independent study I did with Dr. Waterhouse during the summer of 2005, and as much as people don't like Fanny Price because she is the mousiest of all of Austen's heroines, I love her. I just love, love, love her. I love this novel, I love Austen, but above all, I just love the relationship Fanny and Edmund have. (less)
One of my first favorite books - a birthday book for my 9th bday - it made me laugh and cry the first time I read it, that immediately after finishing...moreOne of my first favorite books - a birthday book for my 9th bday - it made me laugh and cry the first time I read it, that immediately after finishing it, I re-read it again...I try to read it at least once a year...(less)
Another one of my all-time favorites from childhood...I was 12 the first time I read it, and I remember being so swept up in the romance of the period...moreAnother one of my all-time favorites from childhood...I was 12 the first time I read it, and I remember being so swept up in the romance of the period, of the English moors, of being a lonely governess...(less)
I think this one of the most underrated novels in literature, and that Anne Bronte is one of the most underrated authors, as well. If I didn't love Ja...moreI think this one of the most underrated novels in literature, and that Anne Bronte is one of the most underrated authors, as well. If I didn't love Jane Austen so much, I would say this one is my favorite Bronte novel!(less)