by Audrey Niffenegger
I had a slow start on this book because I hate, hate, HATE present tense writing and had trouble getting into it as a result. Then I decided to persevere because everyone says it's so good and by the time I passed the first 50 pages, I started getting caught up in the story enough that I didn't notice as much. I won't say that it didn't throw me out of the story a few times, but the time travel aspects were original and kept my interest enough to decide to finish it.
One thing I found very original was that the time traveller had no control of when or where he travelled. The book explains how and why it starts and how it works so I won't spoil that, but it made for some interesting situations. The rules also didn't allow him to take anything with him, so every time he moved through time he appeared in a new time and place naked and never knew when he was until he found out by asking someone or finding some indication like a newspaper. You can imagine the awkward situations that led to. Like in the Terminator movies, but this time traveller couldn't bully clothes off people and had to beg, steal or scrounge for them.
The convoluted coming and going of the time traveller as he visits his wife in her young days is very well done until halfway through when we get to their wedding. I could see what was meant to have happened, but I didn't feel it was executed as well. The various events and situations kept interest up to that point very well, despite the present tense writing which continued to irk me every time I picked up the book to read some more. Is it possible to love a story and hate the way it's written? This is a first for me.
There is sort of a lull after the wedding where ordinary domestic adjustments are only occasionally interrupted by time travel incidents. I found the story slowed down, but I had too much invested by then and wanted to see how it ended. There was some interestingly plausible biological exposition on the cause of Henry's time travel, but otherwise nothing overly exciting for quite a while.
The action picked up a little but then turned depressing and I found that events were predicted too far ahead of time so that there were no real surprises. There were also a few loose ends, like one of the time traveller's appearances that should have had significance but was never explained. Previous instances always came full circle eventually so that you learn what happened, but not this one. There was also one major inconsistency where one of the instances of time travel included detailed description of clothing but when it came up later, there was no opportunity to obtain clothing before he was gone again.
I really didn't like the last 150 or so pages. The ending was pretty much already told and it was all very depressing. I'm glad I've read the book, but it won't be a re-read for me, ever. There was enough of interest to make it worthwhile and give me some new thoughts on the theory of time travel and how it might work, at least in speculation, but I'm definitely ready to move on from this to something completely different.