Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I finished The Time Traveler’s Wife (Fantasy 516 pages) by Audrey Niffenegger the other day because it had been recommended by a gentleman in my local writer’s group. Overall, it was better than I was anticipating.

I’d been avoiding reading this book and I definitely haven’t seen the movie, mostly because there was a lot of hype about it and I tend to steer clear of romance novels because I’m not too keen on the whole “happy ending” / “happily ever after” thing, which is the cornerstone for all romance novels. During my most recent residency at Seton Hill University, one of my modules was Selected Elements of Style, taught by Tim Esaias. During that module, we read a selection from The Time Traveler’s Wife and I realized that one of the main characters in the novel, Henry, was a thief. The selection we read piqued my curiosity and I brought it up last week at the first local writer’s group meeting that I’ve been able to attend in a very long time. One of the gentlemen in the group discussed a little bit about the plot and how I might actually like the book since it doesn’t exactly have a happily ever after.

Normally, I’m a very chronological person and this is definitely not a very chronological book. I mean, it is, but it isn’t at the same time. The story is more or less told from Henry’s beginning with Clare and then in reverse with Clare’s beginning with Henry, and we follow the story that way, though it does jump every now and then. The way the time line was done fascinated me because it jumped around in time quite a bit, but that’s to be expected when you’re reading a book with Time Travel in the title. As I read the book, I kept thinking about how the author must have a very complicated timeline in her notes somewhere, showing where everything happens. It was definitely a work of skill and art to decide what kind of order to put each section in and I really admire her ability to tell this story in a cohesive way that didn’t feel disjointed at all.

The concept of this book was also remarkably intriguing. It encouraged me to think more about self-fulfilling prophecies and how time might be more solid than we think. Henry was such an important person all throughout Clare’s past that when she meets Henry for the first time, she basically molds him into the man she remembers and that creates the future for Henry and solidifies the past for Clare. A very interesting paradox.

There was one passage that spoke particularly to me on page 209: “I can’t really comment on this because Mama has never let me read one of her poems, so I say. Well, the garden is beautiful; and she waves the compliment away. Praise means nothing to Mama, she doesn’t believe it. Only criticism can flush her cheeks and catch her attention. If I were to say something disparaging, she would remember it always. There is an awkward pause. I realize that she is waiting for me to leave so she can go back to her writing.”

Overall, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would and might read it again in the future.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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