A(nother) Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Do you have a book case? Most people do in some form or another.

 

And I’m assuming because you are reading a blog about a book, then you do too. (Unless I’ve tricked you into coming to this website by adding in some random tags like ‘Beyonce’ or ‘Zoella’) Whether you have one book or a hundred, or twenty thousand (Jacqueline Wilson claimed this last week), you’ll have somewhere in your home that is the home for books.

 

But how many of you us ever re-read a book? I’ve got around 200 books on my bookshelf. All of them there for different reasons, they’re either signed books, or someone special gave them to me, or they remind me of a friend.

 

Or they’re just a very special book.

 

The truth is, apart from the Harry Potters last year, I don’t re-read any of them –  which kind of makes you ask… why do we keep them?

 

Maybe it’s the memories the bring back when we look at them on the shelf. Maybe it’s to show off to our friends… or maybe we know one day we’ll need them again.

 

I was recently in the mood for a book I could trust. I’d just finished Little Deaths which… I didn’t love. I found it hard going. It took me two weeks, when most books take me on average around five days.

 

In the middle, I read Tinman by Sarah Winman which I loved. So, I was left in a position where I was going to find it hard to find a book to match up to the one I’d just read and loved, but I needed to find that I knew I would enjoy more than the other one I’d just read.

 

So I turned to my book shelf for a book I could trust. And that’s where I found The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, a book that I hadn’t read in over twelve years.

 

For those hat don’t know, the plot concerns Henry DeTamble who first meet his wife, Clare, when he is 29 in the library he works in. She first meets him when he travels back in time and lands in the field outside her family home.

 

Henry is a time traveler, not through choice, but through a random genetic defect. He can’t control it, nor does he know the cause. Largely, he travels back to places along his own timeline.

 

This is the story of the Doctor and River Song long before Steven Moffatt came along, and told in a much simpler way. The trick, is not to follow the time traveler, but to follow time itself.

 

Niffenegger tells us the story of Henry and Clare in a largely chronological way, often this means that the Henry we see is both older and younger than the previous and subsequent versions of Henry that we’ll see.

 

At it’s heart, this is a love story, an exploration of fate versus free will. Like all good books, it explores that one emotion that binds us all. The one that defines all of our lives. Love.

 

And it’s just so effortlessly perfect, and simple, and sad and happy, and everything all at once. There are sometimes, just one too many peripheral characters to keep up with, but this is an inevitability when you’re exploring the whole lives of two people.

 

Re-reading The Time Traveler’s Wife was like a warm hug, like seeing an old friend. It sounds cheesy, but these are clichés because they happen.

 

If you’ve never read The Time Traveler’s Wife then it would always have been at the top of my recommendation list, so go read it now.

 

If you have read it before, maybe it’s a trip back in time (geddit?) and read it again? Alternatively, give your bookcase purpose again, visit it and pick up another book that you love, one that you trust, but haven’t read in years and rediscover the reason why you decided to keep it hanging around in the first place.

A(nother) Review: Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Some books have a lot of potential. Some of them exceed them, some of them meet them, and some of them fall short.

 

I didn’t know anything about Little Deaths before I read it, I just knew that the people who were reading it, liked it.

 

So, I’m going to give you a head start on me and tell you a bit about it.

 

Ruth Malone wakes up one morning to find her children are missing, and to no reader’s surprise – the book isn’t called Little Missing, Then Safely Found Again A Few Hours Later, after all – they are found dead.

 

We follow Ruth, her estranged husband Frank and journalist Pete Wonicke over the following weeks and months (and then years) as the deaths are investigated by Sergeant Devlin.

 

Facts are twisted, witnesses are manipulated and a sense of grief, then suspicion is shared by the entire community.

 

The book keeps you guessing, the writing is good, and you get a real sense of time and place, but… did I like it?

 

It would be generous to say that I did – at most, I didn’t hate it.

 

So, what didn’t I like about it? It’s hard to put my finger on it. We spend a good chunk of the beginning of the story getting to know Ruth, then we swerve her for quite a large chunk of the book and focus on Pete instead.

 

This is where the writing I good, we swiftly invest in him as our lead character, his motivations are clear, and the story from his point of view is intriguing. However, he soon becomes obsessed with Ruth, with the story, and we don’t really understand why.

 

At first, I went with it, thinking it would lead somewhere, that maybe it would uncover something about Pete that we didn’t yet know, but from thereon Pete doesn’t really develop as a character.

 

The two barely interact, and when we do subsequently jump back to Ruth’s point of view, it jars. The ending isn’t particularly satisfying either.

 

I can only think that the point of the story was to delve into the witch hunt that is taken against Ruth, a woman of seemingly loose morals, but again, there seems to be no real pay off to that strand either.

 

The reveal of the murderer comes several years after the children’s deaths and is a bit of a so-what moment. I didn’t feel it added anything to the story to reveal who it was – possibly because I’d got to the point of not caring, but also because I like the ambiguous nature of Ruth.

 

The way it is done as well is somewhat anticlimactic – one character asks another if they did it, and they reply that they did.

 

Four years it took someone to think to ask.

 

Like I said, some books have a lot of potential. This, doesn’t quite get there, however, it feels like an early draft of a good book.