By Annice White
MA Student Annice White shares her favourite comfort read (and the inspiration for her dissertation!), Audrey Nefferenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.
When I think about comfort reading, I picture hot chocolate, fluffy socks and The Time Traveler’s Wife, the novel that has been with me through the best and worst of times.
I bought my first copy in York on the day I officially decided I wanted to move here to study. I wrote poems inspired by it and bought everyone a copy for Christmas. It was my go-to answer for ‘What is your favourite book?’ and always formed part of my ‘Why do you want to study English Literature?’ answer. From day one of my undergraduate degree, I promised myself I would write my dissertation on it. And I did, domesticity in the contemporary. Yes, I looked at who did the cooking and who did the cleaning in the contemporary novel. My original copy was also stolen by a jealous ex (long story).
The novel offers me so much. I can read it when I am feeling optimistic about love, knowing to just carry on with your life and your soul mate will appear when you need them. But most importantly I can read it when I am feeling pessimistic about love, to just carry on with your life and your soul mate will appear when you need them! The novel is difficult to categorise, Sci-Fi Romance is the closest I could come up with as a genre, although this is still somewhat misleading.
The novel’s most important and central element is Henry and Clare. Their love is not perfect, it is raw and it hurts. It also doesn’t help that Henry has a habit of disappearing. Not only is the novel about romance and time travel, it also offers up ethical questions (Clare and Henry met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six and they get married when Clare is twenty-two and Henry thirty). The novel makes you question the concepts of fate, free will and the very idea of soul mates. Both Clare and Henry are flawed, their life is not perfect. There is tragedy, regret, loss and time travel infidelity. It is a rich and important novel and I will never forgive them for not putting Ingrid in the film. (Do not watch the film!).
The thing that brings me back to it time and time again is how beautifully it is written. The prose is beautiful but not elitist. Niffenegger fills the novel with culture references that do not intimidate but inspire her readers. My favourite example being Clare’s description of Nell:
‘She’s how Aretha Franklin would be if she was Julia Child’.
I have found so many bands, artists and writers from this text. It invites me to explore the world around me more.
The reason this novel is my comfort read is because I can pick up and read any part at random and feel nurtured by that section, no matter how small. The text is written from both Henry and Clare’s perspective and, as much as my mum fights me on this, it is the best way to explore a story. Niffenegger created a world that I want to live in, with people that I want to know.
Do you have a favourite Comfort Read you return to time and again? If so, and you’d like to share your love in a 600-800-word post, email one of our sub-editors: Ellie Anderson-Ingham, Adam Cummins or Charlotte Stevenson.