Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Books 70 & 71 of 2015: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger & The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

I like that there's kind of a theme in the books I'm reviewing this week. That was completely unintentional when I read them and I never even noticed it until now!

Both books were read for last year's reading challenge, The Time Traveler's Wife (how I long to include that extra 'l') by Audrey Niffenegger was for Week 40, a book that makes you cry.

Henry and Clare are a couple who meet when Henry is in his thirties and when Clare is a child. They get married many years later when both are in their twenties. This happens because Henry is a time traveler, as far as he knows the only one of his kind. It's kind of a medical condition which leads to his displacement in time and space and in this book the pair tell the story of how it shapes their lives.

And it is beautiful.

And it is guaranteed to make me cry.

So when there was a question of which book I would pick for this week's challenge there was really no choice.

This copy is the one which I sent around a book tree I took part in many years ago. Unfortunately my original copy got lost somewhere along the way so I only have comments from a handful of readers in it, but I'm harbouring a secret desire to send it on to some other people in the future for them to read and add notes to before sending it back to me.

I've read it at least once since I got it back but this time I read the whole book with pen in hand, adding my own thoughts and notes to those left by the last readers. I like that it's kind of made it into a scrapbook of my thoughts as I've read. I'd kind of like to get a tatty film copy of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to do the same thing in those.

I love this book so much and when I read it back at the start of October last year it'd been a while since I last read it (I suspect it was probably back when I first received it back from the book tree). There were whole chunks of the story which had just slipped completely out of my head.

As with all books that you read time and time again, you can't help but relate to different bits at different times of your life. I think when I first read it in my early twenties I was relating more to Henry's feeling of constant displacement. This time I couldn't help but identify with Clare during her attempts to have Henry's baby. Reading it when I did, several months after our full fresh IVF cycle and as we geared up for our first frozen cycle, there were several parts where it felt so familiar it hurt. I expect I'll get that feeling again on future reads.

Once again, this book set me off crying at the end, as well as making me weepy earlier in it as well. I had been taking it in to work to read in my breaks but knowing what was coming I ended up staying up far too late to finish the book. The alternative would've been finishing it in the canteen at work where I would've broken down into snotty tears. I'm glad I lost a bit of sleep rather than doing that.

After the emotional pummelling I got from The Time Traveller's Wife, I knew I wanted something a little lighter going for my book with magic in Week 41. I'd been tempted to go for one of the children's books on my shelf, or perhaps throw caution to the wind and begin another reread of the Discworld books.

As luck would have it, Andrew Kaufman's The Tiny Wife was next on my bookshelf to read, and it fit the bill perfectly.

This tiny book, illustrated by Tom Percival, tells the story of the people who are involved in a very strange bank robbery. Whilst waiting in line at the bank, a thief charges in and demands that everyone there give him the most valuable thing in their possession. He doesn't want money or diamonds or posh watches; he wants family photos, a calculator, a payslip. And from that moment on strange things begin happening to the people he stole from; a woman's tattoo comes to life and tries to eat her, a woman finds that she is made of candy, and Stacey Hinterland begins to shrink.

I love books in the magic realism genre so I figured this would suit pretty well for my book with magic in it. It was doubly perfect because it clocks in at only 88 pages so it's nice and easy to read in an evening before bed.

The beauty of magic realism is that it's a little like fairy stories for grown ups. You are reminded of a time when all these magic things could actually happen, except in books they can still happen. As I was reading it, I kept on thinking of people who would enjoy this (Mum, you would like this).

It was also the perfect follow up to The Time Traveler's Wife. Both have their fantastical elements. I could almost imagine them both happening in the same world, after all, if you can have a man who travels through time and space, why not have a thief who can steal stuff which makes babies poop money.

Random aside, the description of the thief made me think of Gavin from The Boat That Rocked:

Mainly because he's described as wearing a flamboyant purple hat so this is automatically how I pictured him. But you can also see the similarities here:

I do kind of wish we knew a little more about the thief. How did he do the things he did? Why did he do them? Where did he come from? What did he do next? What happened to everyone else after the book ended? But it's one of those things that you just have to accept that you'll never know, the speculation is half the fun.

The book could honestly have gone on a lot longer because it did mention similar things happening in other places. I loved reading about all the weird and wonderful things that happened in the book, so I'd have loved for it to be more than 88 pages so I could find out about all the other people as well.

As of now I've not actually read anything else by this author, but I'd really like to. There were moments where The Tiny Wife reminded me of Neil Gaiman, which is never a bad thing. The world could always use a little more magic in it.

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