The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
An impressively high, but in retrospect unsurprising, placing for Niffenegger’s first novel, about a man with “chrono-displacement disorder” and the woman whose life intertwines with his. Helen Brown’s review in The Telegraph sums up the novel’s appeal:
It comes as no surprise that Niffenegger is an Anne Rice fan. Although her prose is generally much better than Rice’s, she taps into the same teenager lurking in all of us. The one that reads Cosmo and Stephen King, while listening to the Buzzcocks and trying to get high on hairspray. Like Interview with the Vampire, this novel makes us crave a wilder life in which we have hip, secret reason to feel special and alienated.
But as the story progresses into marriage we realise that, of course, we don’t really want to know when and how the people we love will die, or what tragedies our children will face without us, any more than Rice’s bloodsucking Louis wants to live forever without sunlight, at the expense of others. We don’t want a partner who slips from our lives unaccountably, to return shaking and drenched with blood. Having swept us from our quotidian lives with a great whoosh of escapist fantasy, Niffenegger finally reminds us how good it is to let existence tick along both more and less predictably.
(Except I think there is, actually, more to it than that, and it’s an open question to what extent the novel is romantic, to what extent creepy, and to what extent the line between the two is a matter of where you stand.)
Ranking calculated from 101 responses to a poll run during October, November and December 2010.