Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Time Traveller's Wife (II) (by Audrey Niffenegger)

In a book about a fellow who time travels up and down his life line, hangs out with a 6 year old when he's 36, meets that same girl in real time when he's 28 and yet she's known him for 14 years, you'd think a little thing like this wouldn't bother me, but it does, to the point that it stopped me in my tracks:
The waiter brings Celia's coffee and I point at my cup. He refills it and I carefully measure a teaspoon of sugar in and stir. Celia stands a demitasse spoon straight up in the tiny cup of Turkish coffee.
I just don't get this - Clare is obviously drinking perc coffee, yet the waiter is delivering Turkish coffee to Celia. Is he carrying around a jug of perc coffee as well? Perhaps I shouldn't be such a coffee geek: in the course I've been in for the last two days, my fellow attendees have already worked out that I have programmed regular intakes of coffee into my sytem.

Anyway, the book is going fine - the long anticipated wedding between Henry and Clare is about to happen, one that took place in time displaced Henry's life 6 years before he met her in real time. This wedding is no surprise to us readers, as way back when Clare was 12 or 13, she'd been talking to Henry and got it out of him that he was married to a "very beautiful, patient, talented, smart woman". Poor Clare bursts into tears at that and eventually reveals that "I thought maybe you were married to me."

One thing I am increasingly unsure about is the place that his time travelling plays in the book - there is a good chance it is going to be like Titanic, where the sinking of the ship was merely incidental to the love story. So, there are a lot of things you might find in a conventional boy-girl book to give it spice: alcoholic father (his), psychotic mother (hers), a life changing car accident (his) and a lot of the narrative is simply devoted to a telling of their life.

I hope the time travel thing isn't just a gimmick and has a real purpose. So far, there has been a bit of musing on how he can't do things in the past that might change the future, can't tell Clare things about their respective future because that might alter the way things pan out and we've seen the ways in which Henry has had to adapt in order to cope with his time shifts, which leave him naked. So - the need to fend off bullies and obtain clothes mean that he's pretty good at fighting and breaking into places. We do know he was a bit of a shit in the years before he met Clare, causing a lot of pain to a lot of women, but so far there is little insight into how time travel has affected who he is. Ah well, I still have half the book to read.


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