Throughout the week after work, Mighty and I used to take turns cooking. Whoever wasn’t cooking would usually sit in the living room watching whatever-it-was that was on television at that time, which more often than not was Richard and Judy. This is how we came to find out about The Time Traveler’s Wife. Looking back, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember which one of us got to see their Book Club when they talked about The Time Traveler’s Wife. But a few days after they did, I had it and I couldn’t put it down. Well, that’s not strictly true, I could put it down, I just didn’t want to. And not just because it was such a good read, but because Mighty would pick it up and start to read it.
It is, without doubt, the greatest book I have ever read. The copy on my bookshelves at the moment is the fourth one that I’ve owned, because I’ve given the other copies to friends to read. It is such an astonishing read. Whether you come to it because you want to read romance, or science-fiction, you will not be disappointed. Clearly though, I’m only going to be discussing some of the aspects of one of those two genres here.
On the 26th of October 1991 Henry meets Clare, at the library where he works, from Henry’s point view it’s the first time they have ever met. Clare, however, has known him since she was 6 years old. Later that day Clare gives Henry a list of 152 dates, starting with the 23rd of September 1977 and ending with 24th May 1989, the 152 times they have met in Clare’s past and Henry’s future – And if that read as if my use of tense had gone awry, it hasn’t – Henry suffers from a previously unheard of genetic disorder which see’s him becoming unstuck in time. It first happens to him on the night of his 5th birthday when he suddenly finds himself in the natural history museum he’d visited earlier that day with his parents. Naked, and no clue as to how he got there, Henry is met there by a 24 year old version of himself who gives him clothes and something to eat. 5 year old Henry is then taken on a guided journey around the closed museum before being told that the reason he’s found himself there is because he’s time-traveled there. Meanwhile, 24 year old Henry is desperately trying to remember what he saw himself say 19 years ago. And it’s by that point, by the 30th page of the book, that we’ve been introduced to Henry’s time-travel, how time-travel works in the story, and two paradoxes.
Predestination paradox: As in whatever happened, happened. 24 year old Henry guides 5 year old Henry around, because when he was 5 he was guided around by a 24 year old version of himself. Henry lives in a present where his future time-traveling exploits have already happened in his past. For clarification, Marty McFly doesn’t. When Marty goes back to the future it isn’t the same present that he lived in before. His father is successful, Biff is no longer a bully, and Doc Brown is wearing a bullet proof vest.
Ontological paradox: As in something can exist without a point of origin. On one of his first visits to Clare, Henry gives her that list of dates and states that they are the only dates that he will come to visit her. He only has that list because she gives it to him in her future, and his past. Neither of them write the list, it exists because it does.
Both of these paradoxes define the story as much as the love story, but that is as complicated as the story gets. It is such an incredible read. I really don’t want to write too much about it, because I really want you to go and read it if you haven’t already. However, everything I love about the book was missing from the film. Throughout the book his Henry finds himself drawn to 2 places more than any other, 1 is the meadow where he meets Clare, and the other is an event that shows with tragic consequences the predestination paradox and this event shapes Henry as much as his relationship with Clare. The event remains largely ignored in the film, and this is tragic in itself. So, don’t watch the film, buy the book, you won’t regret it.
To be continued…