Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

As a longtime time-travel book fan I have read many books with some sort of time-travel. The first book I read that dealt with this subject was called The Thyme Garden by Edward Eager where children went into a garden and crushed thyme between their fingers and traveled elsewhere in time. I recently re-read it, and discovered the author wrote a number of other time-travel books for children. While not really “time travel”, I loved the Narnia series where the children traveled to a different place. Another book I enjoyed was Andre Norton’s Dragon Magic in which people were able to time travel where they wanted. Secretly, my favorite romantic movie is “Somewhere in Time” and I have even written a short story or two involving time-travel.

I purchased The Time Traveler’s Wife a few months ago after briefly hearing about it and thinking the title and cover of the book were intriguing. I suggested it as a possible read for my book group, but another book was chosen. Then an online group to which I belong suggested reading it, and I joined in. My real life book group is still not interested. Pity.

Henry first meets Clare at the Newberry Library in Chicago when Henry is 28 and Clare is 20. However Clare first meets Henry when she is 6 and he is 36. Henry has a disorder that he suspects is a bit like a seizure disorder, except instead of having a seizure, he is transported backwards and forwards in time, ending up naked where ever he lands.

In this book Henry may not change events, although he is forced to witness some tragedies time and time again, he is always helpless to change the outcome.

This book is breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly sad. However it is uplifting and I am envious of the love these two characters have for each other. The author writes it in such a way that the time-travel part of the story is believable.

I had a slightly difficult time with the ending, not the very ending, but what happened to Henry in the year before the book ended. The book was like a pleasant ride on a mild roller coaster, and suddenly it became, for a while, a jarring walk through an evil carnival fun house.

One last thing I liked about the book was the fact that many place names were real. I recently spoke to someone who said that she even went to some of the concerts mentioned in the book.

It is hard to believe that this is Audrey Niffenegger’s first book. It is nearly perfect in every detail. I read an interview with the author that suggested she wrote the book in a different order than in which it was published.

I got the title first, and played around with it for quite a long time, slowly evolving the characters in my head. I wrote the end before anything else, and then began to write scenes as they occurred to me. TTW was written in a completely different order than the one it finally took. I understood early on that it would be organized in three sections, and that the basic unit was the scene, not the chapter. It has a rather chaotic feel to it, especially at the beginning, and that is deliberate-there is a slow piecing together, a gradual accumulation of story, that mimics the experience of the characters. I made a lot of notes about the characters. I had two timelines to help me stay organized, but no outline of the plot. (Audrey Niffenegger interviewed by Mark Flanagan. Full interview available here.)

I sincerely hope this will not be Niffenegger’s last novel.

Rumor has it that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have purchased the rights to the novel and are going to star in it. Not who I pictured at all. I can possibly see Pitt as Henry, but Aniston is too much that Friend’s character to me.

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