#15 ~ The Time Traveler’s Wife

April 10, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Books, Literary Criticism, Sexual Identity | 4 Comments
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The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Imagine meeting your husband for the first time at the age of six. Imagine also that he does not know you when you meet him as an adult because he, at his current age, had not met you via time travel. Imagine waiting for good and terrible events to happen because you know about them ahead of time. Since you cannot alter the future, you can’t stop things like car crashes, fatal accidents, or September 11, 2001. Is the joy received by knowing about the love you will experience in the future worth the heartache that comes from being unable to prevent those you love from being hurt?

The book begins with Henry’s earliest experiences with time travel, it moves on to Clare’s experiences with Henry as she grew up, and then continued in time from the day they first “met” as adults. After they become a couple, you read about more of Henry’s adventures from the perspective of when they happen in “real time.” At first, Henry does not tell Clare that they will someday be married. It wasn’t until she asked him point blank that he told her the truth from his perspective from the future. From then, Clare only imagines her life with Henry. Although she has ample opportunity, she doesn’t date. She’s focused on her art studies and the man she believes is her destiny. Henry, on the other hand, does not know she exists until he is 28. Prior to that, he sowed quite a few wild oats.

It is the disparity in what young Clare knows versus what young Henry does not that seems controlling to me. At their last meeting as a result of Henry’s time travel, a 43 year old Henry tells Clare to live her life to the fullest and be confident that they will meet again and be together forever. Clare says that she will do nothing but wait for him. Henry again tells her to experience all the life that she can, but mentions that he doesn’t want her to date other men. That fact that Henry told her what he would prefer made her decision to wait that much more concrete. Henry is a fine and loving partner for Clare, but he also got exactly what he wanted. It goes back to the double-standard that men are almost expected to explore the world and its women before settling down while it is preferable to them that their wives are found by them to be naïve and innocent. While I found this irritating, it is not out of place or character. This isn’t your typical life experience, but Clare’s decision to be with Henry and with Henry alone is what I would imagine most young women would do. I wonder what would have happened had it been Clare who was the time traveler?

The Time Traveler’s Wife flowed well and maintained my interest throughout. I did find the ending somewhat hokie, but the theme of waiting was followed through to the end. One aspect about Ms. Niffenegger’s writing did pull me out of the book from time to time. I’m sure that writing sexual scenes is not easy. How do you put what is without words into words without sounding too harsh or too flowery? In general, I don’t have hang-ups when reading explicit writing; but, when hard core words are used, they should at least fit the character. When it doesn’t, it gets in the way of my reading enjoyment. For example, there is a scene in which Clare uses the word c#nt. I will be the first to admit that I wish that word didn’t exist at all. Beyond my own personal preferences, it just wasn’t believable that Clare would use that word, and especially not in the situation in which she did. Henry’s use of the word c#ck came across the same way. When those types of words are used for shock value, I wonder if the author doesn’t trust her writing or her ability to shape her characters.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is interesting to read and the book is well written. Other fiction I’ve written that dealt with the complications that arise from time travel have not been contained within the confines of time traveler’s potential life span. This made that concept more realistic to me. I enjoyed tagging along with Henry and Clare on their adventures. I think that you will, too.


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  1. This is funny – I stopped by Our Shady Tree and saw you were blog-breaking. It directed me here – and I just ordered this book! I’m going to come back after I’ve read it and see if I came to the same conclusion.

  2. Hi! I just found your blog from Third Mom. I am a blogger, Library Media Specialist and single mom. I read Time Traveler’s Wife a couple of years ago. I liked it a lot, except for the strangeness of him popping in and out all the time. You are right, the love making scenes are a bit odd. Now that I read your review and look back on the book it annoys me a lot that he had so much more control over their relationship than she did. You are right, it makes him into a sort of patriarchal figure – he practically raises his child bride. She is fated to be his wife and has little choice. I didn’t recognize that when I was reading it and it makes me angry now. I wonder how the story would be if she was the time traveler and watched him grow up? And what about the whole pregnancy attempt/ becoming parents thing? What did you think about their fetus/child being a time traveler? I found that horrifying.

    My adoption/parenting/personal blog is here: http://sandycovetrail.blogspot.com

  3. Third Mom,

    It definitely is worth reading. I’ll look forward to seeing what you think.


    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. That feeling of inequity between the characters didn’t hit me at first. Only at the end of the book – last scene. I’m not a traditional feminist by any means, but that really irritated me. He created in her a desire to have what HE wanted. What would she have done had he not visited her as a child?

    The pregnancy aspect of the story was a bit weird for me. I find it somewhat hard to believe that there would be a difference in her real-time husband’s genetic material and a younger, time traveling version. Even without the conception, how weird is it that this happened? She just accepted it as if it was normal. Freaky!

    I will definitely check out your blog and am interested in getting to know you. I wanted to be a Librarian when I grew up. Instead, I’m a Technical Writer. I could read my entire life away if I was given a chance.

  4. […] Despite the fact that this reading experience is as close as I’ve ever come with a book to the movie experience I had with The Talented Mr. Ripley (where I left the theater cussing and demanding those two hours of my life back), Gaitskill has a way with language. Her paragraphs are lyrical. I’m not sure if this is actually a compliment or not, but this is the first time the word c*nt has been used in a way that felt appropriate to me. […]

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