The Time Traveller’s Wife
By: Audrey Niffenegger
When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare’s attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveller’s Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it’s about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.
I’ve been debating back and forth whether or not to check this book out for the longest time. Then the trailer for the movie came out and that was when I decided to check the book out. As I mentioned for my Teaser Tuesday this week I’ve been re-reading LOTR lately but I decided to start reading The Time Traveller’s Wife as well, try to minimize the TBR list before I move in a few weeks. I was quite surprised that I was unable to put it down at all today (I say quite surprised because even after picking it up I’ve been rather guarded towards the book—the reviews have been either positive or negative)!—so much so that I just finished the book a little while ago and am typing this review while the reaction and memory of it is still fresh (shall be returning to Middle Earth shortly). Possibly highly spoilerish review ahead.
I do admit that it took me a while to warm up to Henry and Clare. I guess because the story starts off where Clare and Henry first meet in real time, go out on a date and so forth, I don’t know. While it makes sense for the novel to start here, I think there was something in the writing that put me off a bit first (not to mention the way that the author described sex throughout this novel…as someone mentioned on GR, it doesn’t seem entirely fitting for a novel of this type. It comes off as rather jarring). But the second and third chapter started drawing me in to their story and from there I really started to take a genuine interest in Henry and Clare.
That being said, I loved their relationship, the struggle for normalcy amidst Henry’s disappearances, the normal domestic struggles, etc. I loved how Henry changed as a person after he met Clare, the contrast between his life during his 20s and the Henry we know from his travels back to a young Clare. You really sympathize for Henry and his up and down experiences during his travels. While you don’t get to read his experiences that don’t involve Clare, you do get a sense of what they were like through the state of his returns. You also emphasize with Clare and how she’s always waiting for him to return to her and some of the crap she had to endure when he wasn’t around (the event in high school involving the jock was pretty shocking).
I should note that yes, the fact that he as a 30-something year-old man talking and hanging out with the kid/teenager version of his future wife can be pretty disturbing on certain levels, it was also pretty sweet. Aside from restraining himself and really being patient and caring towards her, it really shows how connected they are. You really don’t know the initial spark of their relationship; Clare has always known Henry and Henry is always drawn back to Clare in the more strenuous moments in his travels. It didn’t hit me until the end when the quotation from The Odyssey showed up that their relationship mirrors Odysseus and Penelope; he’s trying to find his way back home to her and she waits for him. In this case, he does come back, only to slip away again and try to find his way back once more.
I enjoyed the time travel element of the novel, it’s a lot different than the usual time travel stories where the main character cannot meet him- or herself in the past and tampering with the time-space continuum and the events of history (yes, I did watch sci-fi growing up, lol). Some of my favourite scenes involved interaction between Henry and either his older or younger self and Henry and Alba’s moments. I wish there was a bit more explanation concerning the genetics aspect of it but it was cool that the author introduced it into the story.
While this was essentially Henry and Clare’s story, I wish we saw more of the other characters that came in and out and what happened to them, maybe show a bit more depth. You don’t hear about what happened to the rest of Clare’s family (I’ll get to that at the end). Clarisse seemed to have a bit more spunk earlier in Henry and Clare’s lives but tapered off in the second part of the novel considerably. Gomez, who started off a bit creepy and suspicious at the beginning of the novel, seemed to have changed for the better for a good chunk of the novel, only to revert back and sink deeper in levels of creepiness and manipulativeness at the end. His entire history with Clare was rather sad and distasteful—while it could have been a case of unrequited love, what he did just killed that explanation. In fact, I was surprised that Henry and Clare kept in touch with Clarisse and Gomez over the years, I thought they would drift off and have new friends and such.
I think starting with that strange incident when Clare was thirteen and her father and brother were out that a flag was raised somewhere in my brain that something foreboding was going to creep up. About 2/3s through, I was really starting to freak out for Henry and when the moment of truth came…yeah, it startled and saddened me (speaking of which, with something (inevitable?) looming on the horizon, couldn’t the author have spared him the horrid incident with the frostbite?). I admit, I felt a little choked up with the letter, it was just too darn sad.
Though it kept me intrigued and engrossed, I did have a few issues with the novel. As I mentioned earlier, the references, expressions and descriptions of sex throughout the book seemed a bit out of place at times for a romance of this type. It’s hard to explain but while I guess she was trying to convey the regular everyday type of relationships out there, it came off as crude and awkward sometimes after readings moments of “aww”-ness previously. The ending certainly could’ve been a bit more expansive, maybe talk about what happened to Alba, Clarisse & Gomez, etc. (still liked the last two pages though). Also, there were some moments that I skimmed through because it wasn’t as interesting as other scenes *blushes* I guess that’s partly because I also think that her prose could’ve been more engaging.
I’m getting rather sleepy now but to conclude, I thought the novel was enjoyable. It’s an interesting twist to the concept of time travel in fiction and the romance between Henry and Clare was bittersweet and wonderful to read.