The Time Traveler's Wife

Read by: William Hope and Laurel Lefkow
BBC Audiobooks
RRP: 17.99
ISBN 0 563 50483 8
Available 01 August 2005

Henry and Clare are lovers, will be lovers, have been lovers. Henry first meets Clare when he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Clare first meets Henry when she is six and he is thirty-six. You see Henry has a problem, at moments of stress he time travels, and he travels against his will, with no control over the situation. But whether through fate or determinism Henry travels a lot to see Clare his wife...

The Time Traveler's wife was written by Audrey Niffenger and abridged by Paul Kent. Niffenger is a professor at Columbia College Chicago Center for book and paper arts, this was her first novel.

At its heart this is an intriguing and enchanting love story, performed beautifully by William Hope, playing Henry, and Laurel Lefkow, playing Clare. Henry gets thrown around time, always turning up naked wherever he arrives. This brings problems with his work, who think he is some kind of pervert as he is always being found in the toilets without his clothes. He also has problems with his sexuality. How do you deal with a seventeen old version of a woman you love very much and have slept with many times? At points his feelings become very mixed up.

The disc, like the book, is somewhat non-linear. The book has no chapters but rather presents the reader with a continual set of instances, shown from both of the characters perspectives. The CD has kept this structure, meaning that the overall story is revealed piecemeal. Events which happen in Clare's past happen in Henry's future, and the two must be careful how much they reveal to each other. The whole story only reveals itself at the end, when the audience has listened to both stories. The ending, without giving it away, is very poignant and made my wife cry.

I don't know if audio CD's have any kind of age rating like DVD's. If you know write in and tell me I'm dying to know. The reason I say this is that the abridged version appears somewhat sanitised compared to the original novel. Many of the funniest and most disturbing aspects of the book seem to have been cut out. There can't be many people out there who haven't played with themselves, but Henry can meet himself which brings the idea to a whole other level.

Henry, who is convinced that he cannot change the future, either his or anyone else's, tests this only once by asking Clare to date a picture, which he knows has no date on it in the future. When he returns to the future the pictures date has been removed after an accident, so it still has no date on it.

Henry has also been sanitised for the CD. There are practical problems when you turn up everywhere naked, the need to get food and clothing and the need to defend yourself. Henry is an accomplished survivor which means he can be violent and ruthless when the need arises. The CD keeps one scene of Henry needlessly attacking a man who accuses him of homosexuality but cuts out the scene where he coldly attacks a boy who got a bit fresh with Clare.

The four disc set runs for approximately five hours, I enjoyed it so much that I sat through the whole thing in one sitting. The sound is stereo, which is crystal clear, anything other than stereo would have been rather redundant as the story is told from Henry's or Clare's perspective so essentially all you have is a single person speaking at any one time. The cover is the same that was used for the book and depicts a child's legs standing next to a pile of male adult clothes. I wish that the BBC and others could find a better way to package their products. The discs are housed in a gatefold plastic holder, the sort that looses the little centre pieces so that you end up with small bits of plastic rattling around inside scratching the disc.

This is not a playful look at time travel, but a real exploration of its practical consequences. Should Henry tell his wife, after five miscarriages whether she will ever have the child she so desperately wants? Should he tell her how her mother dies or even how and when he dies?

So is it worth getting? Ultimately the story is one of true love that survives under the most trying circumstances. If you want to get something incredibly romantic for your partner, you're onto a winner here. Mostly, though, you should get it as it's a slice of near perfect science fiction.

Charles Packer

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