The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife

This will be our last look at The Time Traveler's Wife, which I finished last night. And when I say I finished it, I mean I bawled my way through the last 20 pages or so.

I can't remember the last time a book made me actually cry, or if a book has ever made me cry so hard.

And that's a good thing!

The book is fantastic. It's realistic, it's emotional, it's incredibly well-constructed and it flows so nicely that you can get lost in it for hours and feel as though no time at all has passed. Clare and Henry are some of the best characters I have come across in quite some time.

And that's what I want to focus on for the rest of this post: Characters.

They're real people. I don't mean that literally, of course, but in a literary sense, they are so real they might as well be flesh and blood. They are flawed -deeply, secretly and at times embarrassingly flawed. They lie, they hurt each other, they fight and they make mistakes.

That is one of the golden parts of this book. Clare and Henry are more passionately in love -and in odder circumstance -than many other characters in modern novels, but their relationship is still as fraught as any other real life relationship. They have Henry's chrono-displacement to worry about, but they also have "normal" problems like trying to have a baby, dealing with a small living space, difficult family relationships, illness, silly little fights over who's going to vacuum (they hire a cleaning service).

Those are the things, as much as the oddity of Henry's condition, that readers are going to take away from this story. They are the things that make The Time Traveler's Wife such a powerful read.

Writers, we hear all the time that our characters must be believable, and that point hits home so clearly in this book. If Clare and Henry fit together easily all the time, or if their families were stereotypically normal -or predictably flawed -this book would not pack the punch that it does.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say this: even if the book had ended differently than it had, and it ends on an amazingly poignant note, I still would have cried. I still would have put it down feeling slightly dazed by the writing. I would still be looking very closely at my own writing for the emotional power I found here.


What were your perceptions of the characters in this book?
Writers, how do you achieve emotional complexity without detracting from your plot or goals?
What did you think of the rest of the book?

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