Monday, August 22, 2005

Enjoyable and unpredictable

The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

This is hands-down, the best recently-written novel I have read.

Henry DeTamble is an adverturous librarian involuntarily and unpredictably travels through time. Clare Abshire is the artist he marries, who life is natural and sequential. This is the story of their life together across 72 years of Clare's life and 18 years of Henry's.

The book raises, without answering, several curious circularities caused by this time travel. Most notably, the first time Henry meets Clare, she is looking for him because she grew up with (older) time displaced Henry. The first time Clare meets Henry, he is already married to her and goes to see his wife's childhood. (He does not strictly control the time displacement, but he tends to visit times and places that are somehow important to him.) Niffenegger largely ignores this causal dillema, though the characters do spend some time considering time-displaced causation.

More interesting (and subtle) is a red herring, which I will not go into in detail, regarding Henry's death. Suffice it to say that a heavily forshadowed event does not go down as the reader is initially led to expect.

On the whole this is quite an enjoyable novel, and a rather unpredictable plot.

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A moving tale

The Kite Runner
by Khalid Hosseini

Although the principal setting may seem exotic to many American readers, the themes of betrayal and redemption are as old as the Mullah Nasrudin jokes the characters tell, and they may never have been as well-told as here.

This is a particularly difficult book to comment upon without spoiling the plot, although perhaps that would not be a bad thing.
In Afghanistan, the ending was all that mattered. When Hassan and I came home after watching a Hindi film at Cinema Zainab, what Ali, Rahim Khan, Baba, or the myriad of Baba's friends -- second and third cousins milling in and out of the house -- wanted to know was this: Did the Girl in the film find happiness? Did the bacheh film, the Guy in the film, become kamyab and fulfill his dreams, or was he nah-kam, doomed to wallow in failure?

Was there happiness at the end, they wanted to know.

I am in America, however, not Afghanistan, and so I will not reveal the end of this story here.

For its 370 pages this book is a remarkably quick read, and not overly demanding. Khalid Hosseini develops his story patiently, never rushing it but not letting it drag either.

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