Friday, May 29

My last read

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

**only very tiny spoilers**

This was a disappointment. I don't know why I was expecting something better, except that perhaps it was recommended or mentioned by several people.

I will concede that coming on after Mill on the Floss was always going to be a hard act to follow. And all it's flaws are highlighted acutely against that backdrop.

However, the flaws still exist.

It's actually a very interesting premise, the whole time travelling as a very ordinary person thing. It's a romance first and foremost. Instead of fueding relatives or social constraints, the challenge for this romance is the protagonist's inability to stay put in the present.

My two mains issues with the novel are firstly the writing style. Some people read for a good story. If that's you, you might really like this. It is a clever tale and it's well-constructed. As far as story, it's (mostly) a page-turner. But if like me you read for a story and for the writing itself, this isn't that novel.

It's bland. Often journalistic. Superficial. There is no beauty or witticism in it. The dialogue is unimaginative and often cliched. Sometimes downright cheesy.

The second problem is the characterization. There is no depth. I wouldn't go so far to say that they are 2-dimensional, heck, I will go so far. When every voice runs into the next, and characters are defined by the simplest of traits, then yeah, shallow it is.

With these two very big problems, the romance left me feeling cold. There is plenty of lust, and subsequent sex, but little passion. Especially passion of feeling. I'm not convinced about their love, even with the poignant and satisfying (as far as the love story goes) ending. She seems to love him out of circumstance and time-travel steering, and he seems to love her for her beauty and as a tool to keep him connected to.... something. If you're a believer of Fate and that things are meant to be, you might like the author's take on the reason for this love affair, but it's unlikely you'll feel enamoured with Fate ever again!

The tiny romantic tangle provided obvious fodder, but it flagged and disintegrated before it was barely begun.
And you would think that his overall predicament would have created many more and much more complicated situations, but it doesn't untill the very end.

There are several themes weaved throughout the story, such as loss, humaness, parent and child relationships, but they just don't go far enough for me. Some of them come to dead ends. I think the only poignant theme, the successful one, was how tenuous is life. Even the main premise is left wanting. This is the author's topic of choice, she raises philosophical questions about time travel, and then leaves them hanging there. This would be fine if the other main theme, that of romantic love being an ideal, was dealt with in a much more convincing and thereby satisfying way.

For me, it's greatest success was making the concept of time-travel so believable, and putting it together so well that it doesn't become confusing.

With some heavy editing, I think this would make an interesting film. Somewhere on par with Vanilla Sky.

Currently reading: White Teeth

p.s, monthly review time is around the corner.


Warning: take me too seriously at your own risk.

"There are no facts, only interpretations."

Nietzsche

18 comments:

  1. Hey, I stumbled onto this looking for an image. It turns out it has been made into a film! With Eric Bana as lead. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0452694/

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  2. Thank you for finally giving me a reason (well, 2 reasons) not to bother reading this book! It's been on my shelf for ages, and everybody keeps raving about it, and I occasionally think I really should read it, but just can't get into it. So now you've given me the perfect reason not to bother at all! :)

    The 2 main criticisms you gave are both things that would seriously irritate me - characterisation and writing style are often more important to me than the actual plot! So, thanks, again, for a good honest review. :)

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  3. Interesting - I had heard so many rave reviews of this, but had not yet picked it up. I agree with Debs - thanks for the excuse not to read it.

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  4. Ooh...harsh! Very harsh indeed! Hehe. I quite enjoyed it this book, but it's certainly not 'great writing', there's no poetry or lyricism, but George Eliot is definitely a hard act to follow.

    The time-travel bits are very good, and I think it was that that possibly was eclipsing the character development. Funnily, whilst I thought the relationship was interesting, and I enjoyed the book overall, unlike you I didn't like the ending!

    I do like 'White Teeth' very much. See what you think of it, and whether it's still as fresh as it was upon release, (I also really enjoyed 'On Beauty' by Z Smith - loved the way it got inside the shitty politics of academia).

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  5. Being such a lover of books, whenever I put someone of one I feel a twinge of sorrow. LOL

    Doc, I thought the ending waaay too sentimental and obvious, but as an 'ending' to the love story it was okay. I was imagining a reader who was convinced by their love to find themselves satisfied.

    I agree with you, I think the time-travelling, which WAS good, eclipsed everything. That's just not good enough for a novel.

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  6. I always enjoy your reviews, even if I have no intention of reading the book mentioned.
    That's good writing! ;-)

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  7. Another book I haven't read, and now I don't think I will lol.

    Hmm, thinking aloud; time travel and romance- sounds a bit like the diana gabaldon series...

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  8. It's funny how I only remembered that I'd read this book was from reading your review. That's how memorable it was for me. It's one of those books borrowed from the library that left me feeling relieved that I hadn't gone out and bought my own copy.

    (Totally unrelated to this post... Do come over to my blog to collect an award for all your other posts about Little Wildflower.)

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  9. Mon, I like that you distinguish between good story and good writing. I usually read for both, too. I am reading this series to my daughter right now called Avalon, and the writing is HORRENDOUS. But the story is okay (and she likes it), so I just let go of my preference for beautiful writing. It's kind of like watching an action movie. I vehemently can't stand them, but find myself watching from over a book. Or men with chick flicks, watching over their manly magazine or newspaper. ;)

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  10. lol, I like how you've put that Jenell.

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  11. I really, really liked the story, and I finished it quite quickly. I can see how the writing would bother you if you are looking for something beautifully worded, but as a journalist, it didn't bother me.

    The lack of characterization, however, did bother me. I feel like Henry wasn't as personable as I wanted, but I thought about it more and thought maybe that was what the author was trying to convey.

    It's interesting to read a review about this book from someone who didn't really like it. It always makes me step back and analyze. But I still really loved the story.

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  12. It's so great to hear your reviews and other people's opinions in the comments. I'm pretty sure I heard of the movie and that it wasn't great. My friend read this book and didn't care for it. When there is so much great reading out there, and so little time to spend reading, might as well go for the best ones, right? I'm curious about this Mill on the Floss book now...

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  13. Interesting review Mon. I haven't read any Eliot but I imagine it bears little resemblance to Niffenegger's writing! I have to say I loved the book, I became engrossed in the story and yes, I was emotionally invested and distinctly remember crying at the end. But I think your review is fair in that the book may not appeal to those who want exceptional literary writing rather than a good read.

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  14. Well, maybe I will hold off reading this one and just rent the dvd of the movie. lol Thanks for the honest review.

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  15. Hmm - I'd have to disagree with your review in general terms; I thought this one quite well-written, and the characterisation certainly worked for me. I also felt that the love theme was more of an anchor for Henry - not just something superficial, but the thing around which his whole existence revolved.

    But then, I don't like 'Mill on the Floss' - Maggie irritates me, and I find the whole thing profoundly irritating. :)

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  16. There are certainly plenty of people who liked this book. I took a look at the Amazon reviews and many hail it. No surprise, it's a subjective thing of course.

    But well-written????? eek.

    I shouldn't have mentioned Mill on the Floss, I wasn't comparing them. lol Chalk and cheese.

    Earthenwitch - yes, I agree the relaionship was an anchor, he revolved around it, agreed! Which is partly why it was so disappointing. Her red hair and ability to give it up where mentioned more than any other aspect of her. Where's the soul?

    As for MotF, it can irritate you but it doesn't discount Eliot's genius, right? Time Traveler's Wife IS entertaining, but cheap and easy. But heck, sometimes that's what we're looking for! :)

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  17. I often find that when I have heard to many people rave about a book, that my expectations are too big and can not possibly be met. I may have liked the book if I had never heard anyone say anything about it.... I can think of several books like this.

    I never really heard anything about this book before I read it and I did enjoy it. I agree it isn't maybe the best book ever but I wasn't expecting it to be....

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  18. Hope you like Charles de Lint... I love his stuff and have for years but I have no idea if you will like it or not... Enjoy!

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