Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer reading & movie: "The Time Traveler's Wife"

"The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger has been in my "to read" pile for some time now, & I wanted to read it before the movie came out last weekend, so I took it on vacation with me & devoured it in about two days flat. The book encompasses many of my favourite themes -- romance, time travel, infertility/loss. In fact, it was a previous Barren B*tches Book Tour selection -- unfortunately, before I started blogging.

I loved this book. I LOVE a good time travel story. I loved the idea of a love that endures, despite all sorts of obstacles. I love the "he said/she said" structure, although all the jumping around in time took some getting used to.

I love the way infertility & loss were addressed in the book -- how Claire sees babies everywhere, how Henry tries but just can't summon up the same level of determination to pursue this goal at all costs (so true to form in my own experience, not to mention so many other couples I know). I felt badly for Claire when Henry makes a unilateral decision to have a vasectomy. When she still wound up pregnant, despite the odds, I had two reactions: glee, and eye-rolling ("well, of course..."). And while I've never had a subsequent pregnancy (or multiple losses), the tentative way the couple approached each new subsequent pregnancy rang true.

Beyond the infertility & loss aspect of the book, I could relate very well to the whole idea of waiting, the idea of making the most of the time you have with the people you love while they're with you.

That's because dh & I carried on a long-distance romance for three of the four years we knew each other before we got married. We met at the University of Manitoba in the fall of 1981, when I was in my third year of a four-year honours arts program. Having completed a science degree at university closer to home, he came to my school to begin a pre-master's degree in immunlogy. That year, though, he got the idea to do his MBA instead. He took his GMAT & began applying to several schools -- he had to return home in the summer of 1982 -- but of course, he'd be coming back to Manitoba, where I was!

Unfortunately, he didn't get accepted at our school. It was either Dalhousie, in Nova Scotia on the east coast-- about as far away from me as he could go in Canada -- or Windsor, across the river from Detroit, which was slightly closer to home for him. He chose Windsor, and thus began our long-distance romance, while I spent the next year (1982-83) finishing off my degree in Manitoba.

That spring, I applied to journalism programs at several schools, & got into the University of Western Ontario in London (Ontario). So from May 1983 to April 1984, we were just a two-hour train ride apart -- heavenly!! We spent most weekends together, sometimes travelling another two hours in the other direction to visit his family in Toronto. By then, we knew we were going to get married, but the logistics of it all took some figuring out. Neither of us was rebel enough to buck our families' conventions & move in together (especially with no money, no jobs...), so at the end of the school year, I returned to my family in Manitoba & he to his in Toronto. We both found jobs and began working, saving our money and planning our wedding for July 1985.

In some ways, it seems like just yesterday, but in other respects, it was a different world then. Neither of us had money -- & what we did have we were saving for the wedding -- so aside from my year in Ontario (when I spent a small fortune on train tickets), our visits were far & few between. Long distance was more expensive then (& there were no cellphones), so we limited our calls to once, maybe twice a week. (One month, my bill was well over $100 -- a small fortune to me at that time. I didn't want to ask my parents for more money, and I was working a couple of nights a week as a waitress, so I hustled for tips like crazy to get enough money to pay it off.) There was no Internet, no e-mail, no instant messaging. In between phone calls, we wrote letters -- handwrote, on paper -- & sent them by snail mail.

I guess we learned patience -- and just how strong our relationship really was -- which stood us in good stead some 10 years later, when we began ttc.

*** *** ***

Dh & I went to see "The Time Traveler's Wife" The Movie on Sunday afternoon. It was beautifully filmed (on location in & around Toronto) and both Rachel McAdam & Eric Bana are gorgeous to look at. (And yes, true to the book, Henry leaves his clothes behind when he time travels.)

I cried in all the places you might expect -- Claire's miscarriages, Alba's birth, New Year's Eve. And I cried when Henry meets a 10-year-old Alba at the zoo, especially when she hugs him & says, "I love you, Daddy." (When she told him she's 10, dh murmured, "Of COURSE you're 10!" -- Katie would be 10 right now.)

And I cried at the very end, even thought it's different from the way the book ended. It was a reminder that love never dies, and the people we love stay with us always, even when we can't see them anymore (but it didn't pack quite as powerful a punch as the final scene of the book, I thought)(which also had me bawling). Overall, I haven't cried that much at a movie in a long time.

And yet -- I didn't walk out of the theatre feeling I had just seen a really great movie. It was good, but it didn't knock my socks off. Also, unlike the book, they don't indicate what the dates & ages are in each scene, so it's a little harder to follow what's happening. Dh (who has not read the book) was clearly lost in a few places & I had to explain to him what was happening.

Oh well, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon (especially since it's sweltering hot & humid outside again). Having attended two chick flicks of my choice in a row ("Julie & Julia" & this one), though, dh says he's picking the next one, lol.


  1. Okay - I'll be honest. I didn't actually read much of your post because I haven't read this book yet or seen the movie. It was on my list before but now it's at the top!

  2. I love your movie reviews. Your notes about Julie and Julia were right on. I was prompted to see it after reading your post. I don't know about time traveler, but your description seems more honest than the trailers and interviews with the actors portray.

  3. I loved this book, too. I read it in my library book club a couple of years ago -- I think during the summer of IUIs. Interesting that the movie doesn't "date" each scene -- the chronological skipping was difficult to keep up with in the book, so the date-stamping was pretty important.

  4. I'm so glad I read this, I scoffed at the commercials for this, thinking it was just some fluffy love story (I'm not sentimental, obviously) where everything is just peachy all the time. Blech. And I didn't know about the loss/IF ties. I think I'll reconsider.

  5. I loved the book too, and didn't know it was going to be a movie until almost right before it came out. Guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow!!!

  6. I enjoyed Time Traveler's Wife also - right up until the end. The end felt hurried and just, well, not right to me - especially since it had been so interesting and compelling at the beginning. Otherwise - and other than a couple other spots (some which you mentioned!) - it was alright.

    Not sure about the movie yet.

    I always enjoy your book reviews!