Audrey Niffenegger | Published 2003
Boy meets girl.
They fall in love.
They get married.
They live happily ever after.
Only, the boy meets the girl again. And again. And again. No, not in the conventional sense of the word. And not different girls.
Henry meets Clare for the first time when she is six, and he’s thirty-six. But, he’s not in the present. He’s traveling from his present, where he is thirty-six.
Welcome to the chrono-displaced world of Henry De Tamble. He’s born that way. You might think at this point that it’s one of those science fiction writings, a kind of “Nature bests Humankind again” story. However, it’s anything but that. At the heart of it, this book is about time, its beauty, its ugliness and above all, it’s pull and impact on human relationships. We are wont to see time as a quantity reflected in quantum physics theories, but this book makes it real, makes it germane, mundane, and something that truly creates our reality. It shows how we are pulled by memory to relive events and times.
Henry gets the gift and curse of being able to be in his past and very rarely the future, but without any powers to change and control either. It makes us want to laugh at his predicaments because he always ends up without anything – including clothes- on his person wherever (or should I say whenever) he ends up. And it makes us want to cry because he ends up revisiting painful moments, knowing all too well that he cannot do anything to stop them from occurring.
Memory and nostalgia colour everything in beauty – but from afar.
Above all, this book is about Clare. About her unflinching devotion and love for Henry, about her deep trust in him and her belief that he will return to her – from the past or future. She has the unenviable position of being the person who waits. Isn’t life more difficult for the ones left behind?
I’ll end this review with a beautiful line from the book – “Time is Nothing.”