Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well yes. We all have been just a tad lazy haven't we,Theatre? We embarrass ourselves. Anyway, I have indeed had the chance to finish a couple of books between Christmas and New Year's. Right now I'm halfway through Zadie Smith's On Beauty and Mark Haddon's Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time. But for now I thought I'd settle for Audrey Niffenegger's extremely unconventional love story.

The very beginning of the novel presents a rather complicated scenario. The first time Claire meets Henry,she is 5 years old and he is 36. But the first time Henry meets Claire,he is 28 and she,22. If that alone doesn't at least slightly set your freakybook senses tingling,I don't know what will.
As the narrative unfolds,told from the first person's POV of both Claire and Henry,we learn that the hero of the tale suffers from a rare genetic disease,which the author refers to as Chrono-Displacement. Henry,at any moment of the day,can be literally sucked and thrown back and forth in time. He usually appears in his new surroundings completely naked,and must wander around and make do with what he can steal or scrounge until his cells decide to return to his proper timeline again. Very dangerous,and very inconvenient.
But it explains why Claire has known him all her life,whereas the 28 year old Henry hasn't the slightest clue as to who she is (he doesn't actually start going back into Claire's childhood and teen years until he himself is 36,remember?)
Told you it's complicated.

There are particularly touching scenes when Henry ends up visiting his daughter in the future,after his own death,and when he goes back in time and witnesses the death of his own mother countless times. Despite its freakishness which qualifies it for a spot in this blog,the characters in the novel are merely trying to hold on to a normal,real existence. It is particularly painful for Claire,who has to contend with her husband's sudden and often lengthy disappearances,wondering where he is o r if he's hurt and maybe,just maybe,this is the one time when he might never actually come back.
In one sadly comical scene,Henry pulls one of his Chrono-displacement disappearances moments before his wedding to Claire,but by a stroke of insane good fortune an older time-travelling Henry shows up to take the younger Henry's place.
Don't get me wrong,it's a rather fabulous book, but at times the sweet charming magic of "everything will work out somehow" tends to grate on my nerves. Because Henry can travel forward into his own future,he can basically be sure of how and when he gets married,his children,even the house they end up living in. And so the couple are wrapped in a somewhat lukewarm blanket of security,knowing that some part of their future lives are already mapped out and set. Indeed,for someone who is so disconnected from his own timeline, at times I feel like this Henry dude really gets it too easy.
In any case,this is definitely one for those warm fuzzies,and the Freaky Book Hall O' Fame.

If you're interested, a
movie adaptation of the novel is also due this year,starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.


theatre said...

Eric Bana, *heart melting*
not aloud to read it because of the sex, I'll have to do some negociating after such a persuasive review

International Mastermind said...

Amazingly, that just sounds TOO freaky for me! (I'm not allowed to read books with sex, either!)

bloodyawfulpoetry said...

What? Sex? Did I mention there was sex in it?
Oh don't have to tell anybody the extremely intelligent and thought-provoking novel you're reading has any sex in it...