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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

AUDIOBOOK: ‘The Time Traveler's Wife’ written by Audrey Niffenegger, narrated by William Hope and Laurel Lefkow


From the BLURB:

Audrey Niffenegger's dazzling debut is the story of Clare, a beautiful, strong-minded art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: his genetic clock randomly resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous and unpredictable, and lend a spectacular urgency to Clare and Henry's unconventional love story. That their attempt to live normal lives together is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control makes their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Written by: Audrey Niffenegger 
Narrated by: William Hope and Laurel Lefkow 
Length: 17 hrs and 44 minsUnabridged Audiobook

‘The Time Traveler's Wife’ is the 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger, which went on to become a worldwide bestseller and was adapted into a (terrible) 2009 film starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams.

There have apparently been several abridged and unabridged audiobooks made of the novel – the book’s Wikipedia page suggests there are four floating around – but I bought mine from iTunes and it’s the William Hope and Laurel Lefkow version, the narrators who also did the first BBC audiobook.

I read ‘The Time Traveler's Wife’ when it first came out in 2003 – I was 16 at the time and such was the buzz around this novel that I broke away from my school set-texts and recreational young adult books to pick this bestseller up. I do remember quite vividly reading it over the summer holidays, and just being utterly destroyed by the ending. Like, I remember periodically crying for a couple of days after I’d finished reading … but also desperately wanting a read-alike that so beautifully mixed this very genre-scifi concept of time travel with the ravages of the heart (I was a very intense teenager).

I was compelled to revisit the book because last year during a Reddit Q&A, Audrey Niffenegger revealed that she was working on two books – ‘The Chinchilla Girl in Exile’ (supposedly due out this year, but I have my doubts unfortunately) and a sort of sequel to ‘The Time Traveler's Wife’, about Henry and Clare’s time-travelling daughter all grown up, Alba DeTamble. I was so freakin’ excited by this news – and the discovery that a 2013 ebook anniversary edition of the book includes a 25-page excerpt of this sequel (sadly though, I’m yet to actually find this elusive ebook anniversary edition?!)

So I wanted to revisit Henry and Clare’s story in anticipation of Alba’s sequel, even though it’s yet to get a blurb or anywhere close to a release date reveal. But I was hesitant going into this ebook, because I did have that memory of my 16-year-old self being positively wrecked by the book.

I was still emotionally drained by the audiobook – such is the crushing power of Niffenegger’s tragic love story – but I got so much enjoyment out of this re-read and listen. William Hope and Laurel Lefkow narrate Henry and Clare’s alternating perspective chapters, and they’re both a complete delight. Hope has that rough bravado of Henry down pat, and he swears brilliantly (there is a lot of swearing in this novel, but in Hope’s biting narration it becomes somewhat poetic). And Lefkow just has this sweet disposition interspersed with Clare’s steely strength … and both narrators seem to have great fun with the material and passion for it, which definitely came through.

When I tweeted that I was listening to this, someone mentioned that the book so unsettled them because Henry as a 30-something time traveler meets his future wife when she’s in single-digits. Yes, this is a big component of the story – that time traveling Henry meets his wife as a young girl and then periodically over her lifetime until their timelines match up. I don’t remember being unsettled by the notion when I first read the book, and was even less so in listening to the audiobook. I think because Niffenegger so communicates the wonder of this love story – without ever making readers question Henry’s intentions towards Clare’s child-self. There is nothing improper happening here. And William Hope in his narration does a fine job of communicating Henry’s interiority in these scenes – wherein he knows how utterly insane this whole thing is, but at the same time kind of magical.

When I first read the book I was consumed by the love story of Henry and Clare and how tragic/magic it was. I had fun revisiting the erotic intensity of their love affair, but knowing that Alba has a book coming up, I found myself really thinking more about Henry’s Chrono Displacement and what it would mean for a life.

Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow? 
I can definitely see why Niffenegger would want to revisit this world – particularly in Henry’s daughter who has a very unique relationship with her father that’s out of time … I’m so interested to read Alba’s story, and to catch up with Henry and Clare again. I now find myself desperate to know how Clare fared later in life, and how Alba managed to establish a relationship with Henry in snatches of his history.

‘The Time Traveller’s’ wife was just as magical and heartbreaking as I remembered, but as has been happening a lot with audiobooks, this one opened up new dimensions of the story and had me reconsidering certain plots of the book. I also came away from the audiobook a little frustrated that the film – which had a screenplay written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the Patrick Swayze film ‘Ghost’ (so how did he get this story so wrong?!) – was so terrible, when there was such great source material. Halfway through listening I actually thought there might still be adaptation life in ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ … but maybe as a graphic novel?! I don’t know – I guess because art appreciation and creation is such a big part of Clare’s life, I got to thinking how great it would be to see this story represented in that way.

5/5

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