Just in time for the movie release, I finally got around to reading this after it’d been sitting on my bookshelf for months. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book at the time, which automatically made me want to hate it in a very superior way. But I can’t hate it because, frankly, I liked reading this. Not loved, just liked. The simplest thing I can say about this story is that it’s nice.
But just for fun, I’m going to do this review in a style I call The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Because then I get to complain and nitpick more.
The Good: Niffenegger (say that five times fast) gets maximum points for originality, plus ten bonus points for writing a book centered on time travel that never makes the readers go cross-eyed from confusion. Yes, the time travel aspect takes a little getting used to, but it didn’t leave me nearly as mystified as plot devices like that usually do. And while I wish she hadn’t felt the need to come up with a scientific explanation as to why Henry time travels (genes? really?) I understand why she wanted to make the story as plausible and realistic as possible.
The Bad: the book is a romantic story first and foremost, and you have to be in the right mood for that. Since I possess a level of cynicism and disillusionment usually reserved for ninety-year-old war veterans, schmoopy romances like this are rarely my cup of tea. But for the most part, it was okay.
The next thing is a minor nitpick, but it’s still bugging me: at one point in the story, Henry describes his former girlfriend as “looking like her usual Bond Girl self.”
As my college creative writing professor would say, let’s put pressure on that. I wonder, how many Bond movies has this author actually seen? I’d guess the answer is “not many”, but maybe I’ve just seen too many. Is it just me, or does describing someone as looking like a Bond Girl seem way too unspecific? I mean, think about all the different Bond Girls – they don’t all fit into one specific mold. Pussy Galore vs. Vesper Lynd, for instance. It’s a lazy description, and it shouldn’t have gotten past the editing stage.
The Ugly: To be perfectly frank, I got a little tired of constantly hearing about how mind-blowingly fantastic Henry and Clare’s sex life was. It seemed like every five pages they were fucking again. (and Niffenegger almost never says “having sex” or “making love”, it is always “fucking.” Classy.) Really, Niffenegger: we don’t need to know all of this stuff. You say Clare goes crazy for oral sex? How fascinating, can we move on now? Oh good, now Clare is fucking someone else. I hope we get a blow-by-blow description and then a tasteful, far overdue fade-to-black!
The author gets credit for keeping Henry and Clare’s early relationship relatively not-creepy (this was when he was in his forties and time traveling to Clare’s childhood), but that goes out the window when Clare turns eighteen and Henry visits her as a 41-year-old. This, incendentally, is the point at which Clare discovers just how much she loves having cunnilingus performed on her.
Excuse me while I go stand in the corner doing the cootie dance.
Verdict: three out of five stars