The Time Traveler’s Wife: A Review

By Audrey Niffenegger

McAdam/Cage Publishing 2003

518 pages

$22.00

When Clare first meets Henry, it’s Friday September 23, 1977.  She is six and he is 36.  But when Henry first meets Clare it’s Saturday October 26, 1991 and he is 28; she 20.

Thus begins Audrey Niffenegger’s novel about Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire, a couple in love but separated by the space of time.  Henry has a rare genetic disorder that causes him to uncontrollably travel through time.  He revisits parts of his past, as well as the lives of those he loves at a time before he knew them.  Henry time travels without warning to himself or those around him, though stress and alcohol appear to trigger his disappearances.  When Henry vanishes from present time, he leaves behind his clothes and all possessions that he’d had with him.  This leaves him naked and vulnerable wherever he reappears and he’s forced to steal in order to feed and clothe himself.

It is in the library where Henry works that he first meets 20-year-old Clare.  Though he has never met her before, she has known him most of her life.  Clare’s first encounter with Henry is when his future self – at age 36 – travels back in time to meet her – a young six-year-old – in the meadow by her family’s farmhouse.  He returns there multiple times throughout her childhood until her 18th birthday.  After this Clare does not see Henry again for another two years when they both meet in present time.  From the time she a is six-year-old girl, Clare spends the rest of her life waiting for Henry.  Waiting for their brief visits and then waiting for him to return to their shared life in the future.

From Clare’s perspective,

“Henry is an artist of another sort, a disappearing artist.  Our life together in this too-small apartment is punctuated by Henry’s small absences.  Sometimes he disappears unobtrusively; I might be walking from the kitchen into the hall and find a pile of clothing on the floor.  I might get out of bed in the morning and find the shower running and no one in it… Sometimes I wake up in the night and Henry is gone.  In the morning he will tell me where he’s been, the way other husbands might tell their wives a dream they had.”

Henry’s time travel is a complicated concept to convey to the reader and yet Niffenegger does so exquisitely by chronicling each chapter as a date in time, whether past, present or future.  The story of Henry and Clare is also handed over to Henry and Clare to tell.  The two lovers share the narrative throughout the novel, each lending their own insight to the reader.

A writer and artist, this is Niffenegger’s first novel. Though this is a work of fiction, Niffenegger seems to infuse her own sense of identity and experience into the story when we learn that, like Niffenegger, Clare is also an artist.

Once Clare and Henry meet in present time, their relationship no longer faces Henry’s brief and sporadic visits, but instead, his random, extended absences.  Again Clare must wait.  The extended absences and instability of Clare and Henry’s relationship are similar to the lack of communication in other couples’ lives.  The difference is that Henry and Clare’s situation is entirely out of their hands and it’s not the distance of space that separates them but a separation in time.

Niffenegger is able to convey Clare’s feelings to the reader by connecting her sense of longing and loneliness to the same type of companionship anyone desires in a relationship.

“When I was a child looked forward to seeing Henry.  Every visit was an event.  Now every absence is a non-event, a subtraction, an adventure I will hear about when my adventurer materializes at my feet, bleeding or whistling, smiling or shaking.  Now I am afraid when he is gone.”

The Time Traveler’s Wife does not follow a typical storytelling order of beginning, middle and end.  Instead the story is told chronologically through Clare’s life, interrupted occasionally by Henry’s perspective and his flashbacks or flash forwards. Readers could easily become confused as to which point of the story they are at, had Niffenegger not done such a wonderful job at communicating the setting of both place and time.

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Precious: A Review

Effectively conveying the life of an obese, illiterate teen, pregnant for the second time by her own father, is hard, but when successful, it’s Oscar-worthy.  For the title character of Precious, Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones, “life is hard, but life is precious.”  And now, for the young and previously unknown actress who portrayed ‘Precious’ on the big screen, life is good.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, tells the story of a young teen, Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones, at a point in her life where the world has long ago turned its back.  Pregnant with her second child, Precious struggles in every aspect of life.  She suffers sexual abuse at the hands of her father, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother, and despite being the physically large presence she is, Precious is all but invisible to the rest of society.

The author of the novel from which this film was adapted, Push, was written by Sapphire, also known as Romona Lofton, a poet.  First published in 1996, Push is Sapphire’s first novel.  American producer and director Lee Daniels took on the task of directing the film adaptation, asking Geoffrey Fletcher to write the screenplay for what would become Precious.  Daniels had previously produced the Academy-Award nominated film Monster’s Ball, and made his directorial debut in 2004 with Shadowboxer.  Other notable names behind the film Precious include Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, who are among the film’s twelve producers.  Both Perry and Winfrey signed on to provide promotional assistance after the film’s debut at 2009’s Sundance Film Festival.  The weight of these two names no doubt helped catapult Precious into the mainstream media as the film to see.

In the past year, Precious has received dozens of awards nominations, most notably perhaps were its six Academy-Award nominations.  Fletcher won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Mo’Nique for Best Supporting Actress.  Mo’Nique also took home Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor Guild Awards for her role as Precious’ abusive mother, Mary.

Casting newcomer Gabourey Sidibe in the lead was a brilliant move on Daniels’ part.  As talented as an actor or actress may be, their work is often overshadowed somewhat by other prominent and memorable work they’d done.  With Sidibe this is not a problem.  She has no history in film, we don’t know if she’s ever stumbled out of a bar drunk, she’s never had to go through a very public breakup, and her daily life has, until now, been both unknown and uninteresting to the public.  As a result, the audience is able to believe that Gabby Sidibe is Precious.

When we first meet Precious, we’re pulled into one of her daydream fantasies where she walks the red carpet with her “light skinned boyfriend” and is featured in a BET video.  Then back to reality.  But not the reality so many of us know, instead, we see what is reality for Precious – a sharp contrast Daniels effectively draws throughout the film.  In class Precious sits quiet but unengaged in the content.  She stands only to smack another classmate.  Before long she is summoned to see the principal, and kicked out of the school for being pregnant again.  Precious returns home to her abusive mother, who is so void of compassion the audience can nearly feel the cold slap in the face she projects on Precious every chance she gets.  The audience is continuously drawn into Precious’ world as we see her raped, beaten, and having to steal food to eat.  Cast out by her school, Precious transfers to an alternative school in the hopes of earning her GED.  It’s here that she meets Blu Rain, a teacher who relentlessly encourages the self-esteem of her ‘forgotten’ students.  It’s also here where Gabourey Sidibe really begins to become Precious.  “Love ain’t done nothing for me! Love beat me, made me feel worthless,” she says in a wavering voice that captivates the audience for the rest of the film.

The dynamic between the mother and daughter characters Mo’Nique and Sidibe play is enthralling.  A stand-up comic, Mo’Nique proves she can do drama just as well.  The audience battles between utter contempt for the character she plays and then pity for this woman who is so damaged.

Frequent flashbacks, coupled with vivid fantasy dreams, complete the audience’s understanding of who Precious is and how she got to this point.

As an openly gay man, who has surely fought many battles of his own, Daniels’ forces what is the grueling reality for all of the Precious’ in the world upon both cast and viewers.  Precious is not an emotional film, where scenes are lost among sniffles and the wiping of tears, but rather, it demands attention and the message resonates in both head and heart.

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What I’m reading…Hungry

I love that magazines are starting to feature a variety of body shapes and sizes.  I find that Glamour has been one of the best at doing this, and plus-size model Crystal Renn has been a regular in the magazine.

Hungry by Crystal Renn

I recently read Renn’s memoir, Hungry, about her struggle with an eating disorder and later success as one of the top plus-size models in the industry today.  An interesting and worthwhile read if you want to check it out!

On the right: Renn when she first entered the modelling industry; On the left: Renn now, as a successful plus-size model

The Women of Glamour's 'Body Revolution'

Renn has also appeared in Glamour’s November 2009 beautiful bodies spread, alongside six other plus-size models who are breaking ground to redefine what a beautiful body looks like. It was a blog post that prompted Glamour’s body image revolution.

Check out the links for more information.

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Et Cetera: Car stolen from lot at North Campus

My latest article in the Humber Et Cetera. On Mon. March 22 a car was stolen from a parking lot at Humber’s North Campus in the middle of the afternoon.  Click the link above to read.

Thousands of cars park at Humber's North Campus every academic day - Gary Jeynes, director of public safety says about one car per year is stolen from the Humber college campus.

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What I’m reading…Marilyn

Just been flipping through a new coffee table book I got a couple of weeks ago for my birthday – Marilyn by Nick Yapp.  It’s all about the iconic Marilyn Monroe and is filled with pictures from her entire life.

"Marilyn"

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Summer can’t come fast enough

Cottage season is almost here! Can’t wait for the warm weather!

Did some filming at the Spring Cottage Life show yesterday for a class.  It was the first time I’ve been and it was huge!

Al Zikovitz (creator and publisher of Cottage Life magazine) told me the show had about 500 vendors.

Some of my favourite features: a dock party where beer and alcohol were being served, a photography site where you could have your picture taken in front of a giant Cottage Life magazine and thus appear on the cover, and the numerous food sample booths. If you want to check it out Sunday is the last day!

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Alice – a photo story

I’m trying to make it a point to do regular updates and posts but sometimes life is just so busy. So for tonight, here are some photos of Alice – she’s so cute the pictures can speak for themselves.

So sleepy

huh

Big stretchhhhh (yawn)

Cutie

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