Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Time Traveler's Wife: Review

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a beautiful, science fictional love story that pretty well knocked my socks off.  A complex work--told from alternating first person points of view with constantly intersecting and overlapping time lines--that, at its heart, is about relationships and the price (emotionally) one is willing to pay for them.

Henry DeTamble suffers from a genetic disorder (related to the genes that give us our sense of time, circadian rhythms, whatnot) that will eventually become known as Chrono-Impairment. From the time he's very young he finds himself traveling through time without warning to places and times within his own life or that of his wife (sometimes to-be) Clare Abshire.  He has no control over when it happens or when/where he goes....and he can't take anything with him, so he appears naked--sometimes in the most inconvenient places.  This is not only disturbing for him emotionally and temporally, but physically as well since it sometimes places him in dangerous situations.

For Henry, the first time he meets Clare is in "real time"--he is 28 and she is 20 and they meet at the Newberry in Chicago where Henry is a librarian.  Clare has been waiting 14 years....because the first time she meets Henry is when she is six and Henry's 36 year old self magically appears in The Meadow out near her house in Michigan.  From that point on, their lives intersect off and on until Henry is 43...living a "real time" life together, using their real time to develop a relationship, marry, and after much trauma and several miscarriages having a daughter together.  They both know through the interactions with the various "editions" of Henry's time-displaced self that their relationship is limited by this chrono-disorder and that sometime in the future Henry will face a danger he may not be able to overcome.  It is up to them to determine that their love....their connection through time has no limit.  

As Clare says: “I won't ever leave you, even though you're always leaving me.”

As I mentioned, this book is about relationships and the price one is willing to pay for them.  Henry must go into the relationship knowing that he must leave the woman he loves unexpectedly...and, depending on how dangerous the time leap, possibly forever.  Most of the time he also has knowledge of the future that he can't share with Clare. Clare must play the waiting game....waiting to meet Henry in real time, wanting him long before she can have him, and waiting for him when he makes his time leaps.  

This book also take a look at the nature of time itself along with cause and effect and whether we have free will or everything is predetermined.  Henry spends most of the book telling Clare that what will happen has already happened and that they can't change anything.  Even when they decide to deliberately do so.  The story causes the reader to consider whether Henry and Clare have a choice at the moment of choosing or if they are compelled to make the choice simply because it is the choice they will have made.  Some rather deep philosophical waters.

Niffenegger handles this with great aplomb.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story and my interest and emotions were completely engaged.  I became invested in the characters and had to know what came next.  I'm glad I finished the book at home because I was a bit weepy at the end.  This is a book of over 500 pages that I simply whizzed through.  My only complaint is that Clare's character isn't quite as fully realized as Henry's--and even a few of the supporting cast are fleshed out a bit more than Clare....which gives us a rating just verging on four and a half stars.

6 comments:

Shirley said...

I loved the movie and have a copy, unpacked in some box since a recent move, still unread. It seems that the movie followed the novel very closely. I really must find that box now after reading how well you enjoyed The Time Traveller's Wife Bev.

Marce said...

I couldn't finish this one after trying a few times. I am happy to see you enjoyed it.

I appreciated the movie though.

Level 1 Homemaker said...

I read it when it first came out, and liked it too, but I really had a problem with the extra "complication" that was added (I won't spoil it for anyone, but I'm sure you understand). To me, there were enough complications going on without adding that particular one that made me so disappointed in Clare. Otherwise, it was a very interesting book.

geoffwhaley.com said...

I also read this when it first came out and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was one of the first books I passed on to a friend and told them to read it. I should re-visit it as I remember it being thoroughly enjoyable and tragically beautiful.

Gram said...

It's been a long time since I read this. I only remember that I liked it a lot. I did not see the movie..I usually like books better than movies. Dee

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

I have never seen a bad review for this one - nevertheless, it's still not on my TBR shelf - I must fix that posthaste! Thanks for the review!