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Just finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife. My sum-up would be "freaking depressing." It wasn't freaking depressing in the sense that Steinbeck or a lot of Thomas Hardy are freaking depressing, but considering I was expecting a playful part-sci-fi, part-romance romp, it turned out rather freaking depressing.

There was a lot of beauty in this book, and a decent amount of humor, but those only made up about half the (rather too many) pages; the rest was pain and grief and ugliness. (Examples? Oh, dysfunctional families, alcoholism, drugs, incurable diseases, miscarriages, beatings, amputations, lethal accidents, suicides, regular old grief on a pretty much ongoing basis...should I continue?) And that was too high a proportion for me.

Henry and Clare were a romantic, steamy couple, yes, and I appreciated the unusual nature of the time travel in this story. Well, not unusual if you watch Doctor Who, but relatively unusual in literary fiction. However, Clare was nearly the *only* great thing to come out of Henry's time traveling, aside from one or two cool tricks regarding lottery numbers or stocks (they should've employed more fun ideas like that). Mostly it subjects him to awkwardness, horrible injuries, and poignant visits in the past to people who've since died. Realistic, maybe, if one can use the word "realistic" for this plot, but a delightful read? No way. Especially not the last quarter or so, when it becomes clear we're in a downward slide toward death. I detached myself emotionally before that, so I only felt somewhat depressed rather than heartbroken and mascara-tear-stained. (Not like I wear mascara much anyway.)

The reading group guide at the back included the question, "Would you call this a comedy or a tragedy?" Excuse me? In what universe would this be considered a comedy? I don't want to live in that universe.

The writing's pretty good, in that poetic, details-of-the-moment, first-person, present-tense style that so many "literary" novels take on these days, even though articles tell us writers we shouldn't use first person much, and should almost never use present tense for an entire novel. Some people get to break the rules and be on Oprah's reading list anyway, it appears.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 22nd, 2012 01:48 am (UTC)
I gave The Time Traveler's Wife 2/5 stars when I read it a couple of years ago. I was not impressed. The scene with the miscarriage in the kitchen... that grossed me out more than any graphic detail about maggots in the forensic anthropology books I read ever have.

My review consisted of...

Why does a book that is 536 pages have to have 300 of boring pages at the beginning? I was bored out of my mind while reading the beginning of this book, but everyone went on and on about it so there had to be something right?


There is to much detail. It just goes on and on.

Given there were funny parts and that is why this just two stars from me but overall it was depressing, sad and not romantic... in fact many of the scenes with Henry and Clare were down right creepy.

In all honesty... just say no.
May. 22nd, 2012 05:16 pm (UTC)
I vacillated between 2 and 3 stars--I marked it 3 on Goodreads, but 2.5 would be more accurate. Yeah, I know so many people, all with good taste and great senses of humor, who loved this book, so I expected something...I don't know, fun? Less clinical and plodding?

It was the miscarriage in the bed, where she's got blood all over, including in her hair, and the dead fetus/embryo in her hand, that really disturbed me. Or maybe that did take place on the kitchen floor, and I misread it. Was trying not to look too closely at the page. How many traumatizing miscarriages and amputations does one book need, anyway?
May. 22nd, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it really needed some balance.
May. 22nd, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
It was the miscarriage in the bed, where she's got blood all over, including in her hair, and the dead fetus/embryo in her hand, that really disturbed me.

god almighty in the heavens full of thunderbolts.

Thank you for warning me off this book forever. Not that you aimed to do so, but I might have bumbled into trying to read this book, and now I know I never want to, ever.
May. 22nd, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
Hehe. Happy to help. That was a *brief* scene, but still. More Stephen-King-ish than I was anticipating. "Is this a comedy or a tragedy?"--really, reading group guide? I'm having a hard time imagining a comedy that contains such a scene.
May. 23rd, 2012 06:09 am (UTC)
You said it before I could... Wow. Now I know one book I'm never, ever going to read.
May. 23rd, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
Oh good; glad I could help someone else dodge a bullet--especially someone prone to picking up books with a sci-fi angle. It kind of felt like she couldn't decide whether to write sci-fi, romance, or depressing acclaimed literary, so went with all three but mostly the latter. Yay.
May. 23rd, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
I have that book. My husband gave it to me as a "cheer up" present, after our baby died in the womb 2 years ago. He was going by the reviews, he hadn't actually read it himself.

It didn't cheer me up.

I didn't much like the rest of it either. Also, "comedy"? Never in a million years!
May. 23rd, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
Oh Kirsten, what an awful coincidence! I can hardly think of a more unfortunate book to pick up at that time. I haven't even *had* a miscarriage, and it was still near-unbearable to read about, so I can't fathom how couples who have had them could ever stand to read such a thing. I assume some find it cathartic, but I'd want to avoid the subject wherever possible, thank you. But really, it could be a comedy, right?... um, hah, no.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )