Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s WifeI have had Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time Traveler’s Wife on my to-read list for an age, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t compelled to actually start reading it sooner. I started watching Doctor Who on Netflix, and I found the story of the Doctor and River Song deeply compelling. In the episode “The Day of the Moon,” River is going back to prison, and she kisses the Doctor goodbye.

 

I found the idea of two time travelers, in love, but living in opposite directions, so devastatingly, hopelessly sad. And as I did some digging online, I found that people compared the relationship between River and the Doctor to this novel, which is what prompted me to read it at last.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is the story of Henry and Clare DeTamble. Henry has a genetic disease that causes him to travel through time. He is unable to control it, and when he arrives at his destinations, he is naked (being unable to take his clothes with him through time) and often has no idea when he is. From Clare’s perspective, they first meet when she is a little girl, and Henry occasionally visits her as she grows up. Though Henry can’t seem to control his travels, he does seem drawn to important people and places in his life. Their love story is both beautiful and tragic.

At this point, the review is about to be spoilery, so you have been warned. Don’t read further if you don’t want parts of the book ruined for you. Though I realize this book has been out for a while now, and spoiler alerts are technically “off,” I enjoyed the book spoiler free (excepting for spoiling it for myself by peeking ahead), and I think everyone else who wants to read it has that right. For that reason, spoiler text is in white below. Select the text to read it.

If I have one complaint about this book, it’s that I thought Henry’s death was unsatisfactory. After all the times he managed to get out of scrapes, he winds up being shot, and by Clare’s father and brother while they’re out hunting, no less? Yes, it’s probably a miracle that he managed to survive as long as he did, given all the bizarre situations in which he finds himself, but that was just pretty awful. All that said, I loved the rest of it. I admit it was a little difficult to keep up with Henry’s adventures, but his life with Clare, and their love for one another, was so well drawn and compelling, that I couldn’t quit turning pages. And then I peeked ahead and realized Henry was going to die, and I had to put the book down for a while because I just couldn’t take it. I knew that a story as strange as this one was bound to be fraught and most likely could not end well, but I didn’t want to read about Henry’s death. At last I picked the book up again and finished it. I adored the ending and the comparisons to Odysseus and Penelope. We read The Odyssey and see Odysseus’s story, but we have glimpses, only, of Penelope’s twenty years of waiting. In many ways, Clare’s own story is much more heartrending than Penelope’s.

In all, this was a good book, and it’s been a while since I read a book I enjoyed this much.

Rating: ★★★★★

3 thoughts on “Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

  1. Ah, this book. I agree with you about Henry's death, although I suppose it was reasonable to suppose that he would die at some point, and I don't know what manner of death would have felt satisfactory to me. For me, the part that felt strange was his losing his feet to frostbite — again, not unrealistic, but it was tonally jarring somehow. Didn't stop me from bawling my eyes out at the end though!

    (My favorite, favorite scene is when he meets his daughter for the first time. That just totally wrecked me.)

    1. I have to agree with you about the feet; however, it was one of those things that seemed inevitable. All the times he pops into another time, sans clothing, and not once in the frigid Chicago winter was he unable to find clothes? Was bound to happen I guess. I know what you mean about what manner of death would have been satisfactory. I kept thinking it was going to be some treatment going awry. I mean, he seemed to be slipping off more frequently, and it was almost like his condition was getting worse. And yes, that scene with Alba was fantastic. I hear there is a sequel about Alba.

  2. Read this one ages ago and loved it but like you that is probably the one complaint I also have about the book. I cannot imagine Clare's life and how heartbreaking it was for her to be constantly waiting to see when Henry would show up or if he would.

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