Off Duty: GP Book Group

The Time Traveler's Wife; Author: Audrey Niffenegger; Vintage £7.99. ISBN 0 099 46446 2

For doctors troubled by concepts of post-viral fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, The Time Traveler's Wife may present a slight difficulty.

The story is about the relationship between Clare and Henry, who has a rare genetic disorder called chrono-impairment. This condition causes him to be repeatedly transported into his past or future, with little warning or control.

'It feels exactly like one of those dreams in which you realise you have to take a test you haven't studied for and you aren't wearing any clothes.' For me, that paragraph most aptly portrays the nightmarish condition Henry is subjected to.

Henry first meets his future wife, Clare, in a meadow behind her family home, when he is 36 and she is six years old. From such a beginning, an extraordinary love story develops, and they subsequently marry when Henry is 30 and Clare, now an artist, is 22.

The book charts the complexities of their relationship, with the narrative being alternatively provided by the voices of Henry and Clare as they describe the pain, torment and uncertainty of the unpredictable periods of separation that puts an unfathomable strain on their marriage. The reader is drawn into their story as they relate the desperate quest to find a genetically engineered cure for Henry's affliction.

At first, I found the whole concept disorientating, but once I stopped referring back to previous chapters and accepted each chronological change as stated, the book became much more enjoyable. The success of the tale can be measured by the fact that it sometimes made me laugh aloud, while other parts were poignant enough to bring a lump to my throat.

- Dr Robert Jaggs-Fowler is a writer, poet and GP living in Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire.

WHAT GP READERS THOUGHT ABOUT THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE

Dr Emma Spencer, Holmfirth, Huddersfield: 'I thought the style of jumping from one point in time to another would confuse. In fact, it added depth and emotion. Audrey Niffenegger tempts you with small titbits of information.'

Dr Wendy-Jane Walton, Pontesbury, Shropshire: 'I found this book clever, entertaining, utterly impossible and yet engagingly plausible. The author weaves a complex love story that demands thought and attention from the reader. It is artistic, literary, and draws one irresistibly in, so that the reader is both eager to reach its conclusion and fearful of what must inevitably happen. Never predictable, it gently unfolds a love story using the joint voices of Clare and Henry, recounting the time-twisted web of their marriage through its past, present and future. Its medical details are well researched, and credible as far as anything beyond current science can be. It is a story of profound love, loyalty, and the very human business of coping with loss. It is an excellent read.'

Dr Polly Jacobs, Wittering, Peterborough: 'There are times when it feels a little unbelievable, but when you allow yourself to become immersed in the story, it is a very original take on the time travel theme.'

HAVE YOUR SAY - The next book we will be reviewing in GP Book Group is The Surgeon's Rhyme, by Michael Barrie (The Book Guild, ISBN 1857768132)

The memoirs of Dr Michael Barrie, a GP in Surrey, have been described as a fascinating, hard-hitting account of what it is really like to be a GP today. He tells moving and funny stories about his experiences as a medical student, as a doctor, his misdiagnoses and encounters with patient which illustrate the political and economic problems that afflict general practice.

- We have five copies to give away. For your chance to be sent a copy, email GPbookgroup@haynet.com, giving the title of the book as the subject and including your postal address.

- If you have read the book, you can send your comments,however brief, for inclusion in the review, to GPbookgroup@haynet.com. Remember, do not forget to give the book as the subject.

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