The Time Traveler’s Wife
By Audrey Niffenegger
Harvest Books

When I started reading The Time Traveler's Wife, I was hooked right away. I don't read fiction very often, so it was a refreshing change of pace, and the concept was cool: a man with a genetic condition that makes him time travel, but he can't control it.

The narration in the novel switches back and forth between the two main characters, Clare and Henry. We jump through time to follow their love story, which starts when Clare is only six, and see it develop as Clare grows up. Each time the narration switches, we are told who is speaking, where they are in time, and how old they are.

There are a lot of things I liked about this novel. I liked the relationship between the main characters, and the way we see that story unfold. Their love of food, their quirks, their shared interest in punk music—it all made me feel like the characters were real people, like I knew them. Their flaws, the secrets they keep from each other, and the way we learn the truth made me connect with the characters throughout most of the story.

I also liked trying to keep up with the dates and the ages of all the characters, and matching up events we learned about in passing with what we see happening. The many parent-child relationships in the novel were also true-to-life, and I appreciated the range of experiences. All of these things kept me very happy during the first three quarters of the book. After that point, the story started to drag a bit.

The reader is well past the point of climax by the time threads in the story start looping together. One already knows everything that is going to happen, and suddenly has to wait another 100 pages or so before it actually happens. I found myself growing impatient and just wanted to finish already.

This was also around the time that I stopped liking Clare. Her obsession with having a child started to irritate me, particularly when she says that adoption is fake and that it's like pretending. But what really bothered me was how the story ended. Even though Clare spends most of the book waiting around for Henry, I still imagined her as a strong woman with her own will and an independent streak. By the last few chapters, it's as if her life is meaningless without that relationship. She falls apart and we never see her put herself back together, which is what I kept hoping would happen.

I can certainly see this book's appeal as a great love story between two people who can't live without one another. Perhaps I left my feminist lens on for too long, though, because that wasn't enough for me. Overall, though, I enjoyed the story and did get swept away for a bit into a world where time travel was possible and a love was meant to be.

(Cross-posted at The Feminist Review.)


At Sun Aug 16, 05:38:00 PM Lauren O said...

There were a lot of things I liked about that book, especially its handling of time travel, but I think your criticisms are spot on. And oh my God, the black mammy character had me cringing every time she showed up.

At Sun Aug 16, 06:55:00 PM Chally said...

Oh, you see, Henry was the one who irritated me. I think the level of detail speaks to how long the author spent putting it together; you can see the layering of thoughts and years... Great review. :)

At Sun Aug 16, 07:21:00 PM Gnatalby said...

What I loved about this book was that it made clear that loving isn't something that just happens to you, it's an act you choose. When Claire and Henry met in real time, he was a jerk, but she knew, for sure because she'd met him, that this jerk would turn into a man she deeply loved. So she stuck around and made the changes in him that turn him into likeable Henry.

It's a nice twist since so many stories have women trying to change men (successfully or not) with none of the assurance Claire has that it's possible.

At Sun Aug 16, 08:22:00 PM frau sally benz said...

That's a great point Gnatalby, I hadn't even thought about it that way!

Chally, why did Henry annoy you? There were only two instances where I didn't like him: the scene with the jock guy when Clare is a teenager, and the one where Alba goes into his bedroom to talk to him after the surgery (trying to be a tad cryptic to avoid too many spoilers).

And Lauren, that character was beyond annoying. I just kept thinking omg when will this stop? The caricature was the worst for her IMO because at least Kimy had more depth.

At Mon Aug 17, 02:56:00 AM Chally said...

The 'you practically raped me' comment really got to me in particular. Mostly just little things, but then you've got those references to him not treating women so well.


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