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The Time Traveler’s Wife

Audrey Niffenegger

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (2 Reviews)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage

Published : 2003

Copyright : Audrey Niffenegger 2003

ISBN-10 : PB 0-099-46446-2
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-099-46446-4

Publisher's Write-Up

This extraordinary, magical novel is the story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. His disappearances are spontaneous and his experiences are alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler's Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's passionate love for each other with grace and humour.

Their struggle to lead normal lives in the face of a force they can neither prevent nor control is intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Laurel (310505) Rating (9/10)
Review by Alex
(160505) Rating (9/10)

Review by Laurel
Rating 9/10
Henry DeTamble’s life is a puzzle scattered along time. Since he was a little boy, he has spontaneously travelled from one time and place to another, leaving behind a pile of clothes on the floor and appearing naked and disorientated at his destination. Happening in times of stress or anxiety, Henry cannot trust himself, as he has no will or control over this ability. The only constant anchor in his life is Clare Abshire, his love. Throughout the novel, the pieces of his life gradually fall into place, for Henry, Clare and the reader alike.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a modern story revolving around two lives very intricately intertwined. They met in extraordinary circumstances. As a six year old, Clare met thirty-six year old Henry when he appeared out of nowhere near her home. They married when he was thirty. Henry met Clare for the first time when he was twenty-eight and she was twenty. By that age she had already known him for almost her entire life, yet Henry had no idea who she was.

Henry learnt to accept his life even though he may not understand his ability. He had eventually understood not to question the purpose or cause; it simply happened and he just dealt with it. It is a burden that made daily life difficult and that could have potentially put him in a dangerous situation. It was also a gift that brought him to Clare, and it has also saved his life the very first time it occurred.

Somehow, Niffenegger combined romance with science fiction to write the ultimate love story. She absorbs the reader into the lives of the character, making me smiling at times and crying at others. She is never overly romantic, and strangely, Henry’s travels never seem farfetched. Told through the eyes of Henry and Clare, the narrative jumps from one point in time to another. Clare knows the man Henry is to become, and waits for the meetings that occur in Clare’s past but in Henry’s future. It enables the reader to truly understand and know the very believable characters, meeting them bit-by-bit through different stages of their lives.

However, the characters are so believable, it is sometimes to a fault. Readers may find it hard to relate to Clare and Henry’s circle of friends. There were passages where I felt it was slightly awkward because they had different interests or sense of humour. But it still offers me insights to the world through different eyes.

The author did a remarkable job of using an overused sci-fi concept and making it completely realistic and fresh. I thought time travel had been used so many times that there was simply no more to explore, but Niffenegger proved me wrong. It is not a time machine built in a basement or a wave of a wand, but a rare genetic disease. Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have already bought the movie rights, though I seriously doubt how well this beautiful story can be transferred to the silver screen. It is impossible to read this book without appreciating the writer’s detailed planning and careful organization. The time travelling actually makes some sort of twisted sense, though it can sometimes be puzzling.

She does not try to give a complete scientific explanation for this anomaly of nature. The truth is, no one does know for sure. It is this uncertainty that has a huge impact on the lives of Henry and his loved ones. Clare never knows when Henry will disappear, where and when to or for how long. Yet she stays with him and waits patiently and hopes fervently until he comes back – that is unconditional love. It is hard but they work through it, struggling more at some times than others. When they tried to conceive a child, the effects of this genetic disease on Clare’s pregnancies were disastrous.

This book is a romantic story, but is definitely suitable for both men and women. The alternating narrators offer much insight into the opposite sex’s thoughts. It is appropriate to teenagers and onwards, as some passages may be too dark or mature for younger readers.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a wonderful novel that will leave you pondering about the future, consequence, and destiny. In the end, the unforgettable characters and their love will stay with you forever.
Laurel (31st May 2005)

Review by Alex
Rating 9/10
Warning to science fiction fans: though this book is also about time travelling, it is not science fiction. Time travelling is the admittedly exceptional frame work for a love story. And that’s what the book mainly is, a love story.

When Henry meets his future wife Clare for the first time, he is twenty eight years old and works as a librarian in Chicago, she’s twenty and an art student. When Clare meets her future husband Henry for the first time, she’s six, he’s thirty six and appears in front of her out of thin air. Henry is a time traveller.

He hasn’t chosen this as a talent he wants to cultivate. It is a genetic defect he suffers from. Without warning, Henry keeps leaving his own present physically, and turns up in the past or in the future, usually within his own life period, in different places, naked, cold, and hungry. Sometimes this puts him into life threatening and traumatic situations, sometimes it actually saves his life. Time travelling boosts his longing for normality immensely – and complicates his and Clare’s daily life: who can bear a boyfriend or husband who disappears rather frequently for minutes, hours, or days, without leaving a mobile number behind to turn up again without warning completely naked, hungry, and tired? Nevertheless, time travelling also makes some things easier for Henry, like knowing lottery numbers in advance, knowing what his future house will look like, and that he and Clare will be able to have a child one day.

But what’s really fascinating about the book are not the potential consequences of trips into the past or the future and the resulting musing about logic and the time line - and the author is definitely not always logical here. Fascinating are the characters, their stories, and their relationships. And time travelling seems to be a very clever way to work out who people are, how they became what they are and how they see themselves and each other.

Clare has known Henry basically all her life when he meets her for the first time. She has fallen in love with an older Henry who has been time travelling frequently from his future to her past, so she now searches for that person in the present younger, long-haired and a bit insecure version. At this point of the story she’s the one who knows the future by knowing Henry’s future being, though she’s not the time traveller herself.

Henry has the chance to get to know his wife in different phases of her life, as he meets the child and teenager she has been, but only after they’ve got married. It’s their relationship that is the focus of the story, and as reader you get to know really well what holds these two together and lets them drift apart.

What adds to this is the author’s way of switching perspective between Clare and Henry, something I particularly liked. It adds another layer to the anyway multiple perspective. The same instances and people are not only watched from past, present and future, they’re also seen through the eyes of two different people, and sometimes through the eyes of two different people at different times in their lives. Therefore in the course of the story Clare and Henry and also the people around them develop into three-dimensional characters you seem to have known for a very long time. You start to understand how much they both long for normality and a safe being-together in a present they share uncompromisingly.

Exactly at this point the story starts to lose a bit its grip and gains in sentimentality. But the really well-developed characters save it from being just a sentimental love story about two people who love each other deeply but cannot get together and are kept apart by circumstance.

Nice goodies in the book: Henry was born in the sixties, and during his travels through time he often uses fashion items, music, and cars as points of orientation. Everyone who’s been through the eighties will have more than just one déja-vu.

So: I loved this book very much and couldn’t put it down. In retrospective it loses a bit due to its sentimental swing towards the elements of a conventional love story, especially towards the end. But the characters make up for that without any doubt, and so does the really original time travel frame. Therefore I needed my tissues not just because of the bitter-sweet ending but also because another great story was finally read and done with.
Alex (16th May 2005)

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