The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

Not quite a picture book and not quite a graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile, like its plot, is gloriously subversive in terms of both genre and plot.

In this short tale we have Alexandra, a woman who strolls Chicago streets during the early, early morning. She happens across a night  bookmobile in the shape of a Winnebago.  She is invited in, and, upon studying the collection, realizes she’s read every single copy within the vehicle.  What she learns next surprises her and influences her for the rest of her life, a life she spends searching not only for the night bookmobile, but for its elusive home Library.

And just when the reader begins to feel comfortable, the story takes quite a turn and moves in a totally unexpected direction.  I will not even hint at a spoiler, but I did not suspect the last third of the story whatsoever.

So, as you can see, I very much enjoyed the actual story.  At times it reads like prose, at other times it reads similar to a comic strip.  Niffenegger is not only a talented writer, but she’s a gifted artist as well.  The book’s art, like it’s plot, is unorthodox yet quite appealing.  Though the lines are simple, the picture are detailed with pleasant colors and fine perspective.  I particularly enjoy Niffenegger’s faces.  She’s excellent at subtle expressions.

The best of writing and the best of art should always discomfort us, surprise us, and stimulate our thoughts.  The Night Bookmobile is admirable in that it does all three both concisely and poignantly.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

With The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger delivered a complex, captivating, and perfectly orchestrated plot with rich, rounded characters who demanded the reader’s interest.  The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my all-time favorites and I recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.

It is because of my love for The Time Traveler’s Wife that I am heartbroken to report that Her Fearful Symmetry failed to reach any of its predecessor’s achievements.

I had many issues with Her Fearful Symmetry.  Its characters’ actions were inconsistent; its plot was muddled and haphazard; its revelations were predictable and clichéd; and its entire premise was passé and, frankly, far below Ms. Niffenegger’s standards.  I kept waiting for it to get better, and it simply never did.

Truthfully, I wanted to like this book.  I was so excited to get an advanced copy and read it.  I couldn’t wait to shout from the rooftops and spread the word about its brilliance.  However, as much as it pains me to do so, and even though the thought of hurting Ms. Niffenegger’s feelings haunts me, I cannot lie about Her Fearful Symmetry – I simply did not enjoy its plot, characters, or technique and I do not recommend you read it.

But with that being said, The Time Traveler’s Wife is seriously a masterpiece and I wholeheartedly urge you to go pick it up, support the author, and give it a read.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

A few weeks ago I was looking around for some new books to read and ran across The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I’ll admit, the title kind of turned me off.  I liked the time travel part, but the wife part made me think that it might be a bit too sappy for my taste.  So, I read some reviews of the book, I read the back cover, and I finally gave in.  What the heck, I love The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and I love Back to the Future; in other words, I love time travel stories.  How bad could this one be?

The answer to that question is-the book is not bad at all.  In fact, I honestly would call it one of the most unpretentious and terribly complicated plots that I have ever read.  Our male lead character, Henry DeTamble, suffers from an extremely rare disease that causes him to bounce around in time whenever stressed.  Nothing can travel with him other than those things that are naturally a part of his body.  You do the math.  Henry has been doing this ever since he was a child, and as an adult he is quite adept at picking locks, hand-to-hand combat, and theft.  He must be good at these things if he wants to survive.  I’d like you to imagine yourself appearing in the middle of a city completely naked on a January night at three in the morning.  Get the idea?  Oh, and Henry’s occupation when he’s not traveling through time-a librarian.

Very quickly into the book we witness the first time that Clare meets Henry.  She is but a young child and he is well into his third decade.  In fact, it is the first time that Clare meets Henry because Henry has been married to an adult Clare for some time now.  Yes, that’s right.  He visits his wife when she is only six years old and then continues to do so until she is eighteen!  It boggles the mind, does it not?  Many philosophical questions spring to mind and I’ll leave it to you to decipher them on you own.

Henry first meets Clare, in turn, when he is twenty-eight and she is twenty.  By that time, Clare had known him for most of her life, but it was the very first time that he had ever seen her.  Well, he nearly instantly falls for her and eventually they get married.  Of course, like most married couples, they begin to attempt conceiving a child.  Imagine a child that inherits a time traveling gene that may activate whenever stressed.  Yes, a whole new premise in the story that bewilders.

Well, of course, I won’t tell you how it ends, and although it seems I’ve told you quite a bit already, I promise that I’ve spoiled nothing.  The book is roughly five hundred pages and it is written in an effective manner in which the perspective regularly shifts from Clare to Henry.  The setting also shifts quite often and Niffenegger is always careful to tell us the date and year of each new shift.  We move all the way from the late sixties to 2053 rather haphazardly.  It gives you quite a mental workout.

I highly recommend this book to both men and women.  Niffenegger has accomplished an enchanting and multifaceted novel with such success that it makes the rest of us writers feel quite inadequate.  Just like real life, Henry and Clare enjoy laughs, tears, births, deaths, pain, joy, terror, and euphoria.  With only one hundred and fifty pages left in the novel, you will not be able to put this book down.  Trust me, I was up until two-thirty in the morning finishing it.