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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.

Comments

avari_maethor
May. 22nd, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it really needed some balance.