The Time Traveler’s Wife: Audrey Niffenegger

 

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset
Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

“this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love”.

I’m not a fan of romance novels, but I enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife due to its complexity. Intertwining time, platonic and romantic relationships, with a plethora of emotions made the novel slightly difficult, brought a sense of realism, and made the novel relatable (to a certain extent). Obviously, the act of time-traveling gave the novel a scientific spin, but it created a complicated romance nonetheless, and that’s what I look for if I’m ever going to read romance.

Henry DeTamble involuntarily time-travels due to a genetic disorder, however, throughout his middle age, he meets Clare Abshire: his soon to be wife. Clare meets Henry for the first time at the age of 6 and develops a friendship and later on in her adult life, a relationship with Henry. The two are in love and try their best to live a happy and normal life, withstanding the test of time: literally.

 ***SPOILER ALERT***

This novel is roughly 531 pages and can be confusing if you don’t pay attention to the dates. I found myself flipping back and forth to make sure I understood where Henry was in his past and present. Also, although the title of the novel is The Time Traveler’s Wife the book is actually geared towards Henry. It just includes Clare’s thoughts, her adolescent/young adult life until being re acquainted with Henry, and/or what’s she’s doing when Henry vanishes.

After taking a day to reflect on the novel, I realized that it actually made me pretty emotional. When Clare explains how Henry’s vanishes make her feel, I feel for her.

“It’s hard being left behind…It’s hard to be the one who stays…I keep myself busy. Time goes faster that way…Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?” – Clare Abshire

And as Henry describes the feeling of time-travel, he states:

“Sometimes it feels as though your attention has wandered for just an instant…Sometimes you feel as though you have stood up too quickly…You hear blood rushing in your head, feel vertiginous falling sensations. Your hands and feet are tingling and then they aren’t there at all…I hate to be where she (Clare) is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow”. – Henry DeTamble

If one would compare Clare and Henry’s situation to a LDR, they could be considered somewhat similar. As someone in a LDR, I don’t have to worry about me or my partner vanishing through time at any given moment, but I do have to worry about waiting until our next encounter due to the absence, which sometimes, due to work, finances, or just life, is unpredictable. Which sucks.

And so, because I felt for Henry and Clare’s difficult love affair, I rated the book 4 stars. I think the author’s ability to write how Henry’s time travel worked in the past and present simultaneously without changing the present or future was brilliant. However, it did cause me to think if Clare really had any free will.

Because the confusing cycle of this novel is that Clare meets Henry for the first time when she’s 6 years old, however Henry is in his early 40’s. Thus, when Clare is the age of 6 to about 18, Henry may tell her little things about her future, but nothing that would freak her out (such as, this 40 year old man you’ve been hanging out with for the past 14 years, is going to be your husband). But since the author wrote the book so that the future will always have the same outcome, even if Clare would have ignored Henry in her adolescent years, he still would have became her husband. So, did Clare have a choice? Could she actually assert free will?

And this is a big question I’ve come across in other reviews. However, I would argue that Clare didn’t have a choice. Whether it’s viewed as destiny or an unfortunate event, marrying Henry was going to be a factor in her future.

***Sour Notes***

One of the things I questioned in the novel was, why did Henry travel to Clare’s childhood so often? He usually travels to familiar places such as areas in his childhood, his workplace, or even future familiar places such as the home he and Clare eventually purchase, but even when he meets Clare in his present, in his late 20’s, they very rarely go to the Meadow where the middle aged Henry first met adolescent Clare. It’s never explained in the book, and it’s not even attempted. I would have appreciated an effort.

Second, Clare and Henry are a pretty prestige couple (kinda). Clare’s family is rich and is originally from South Haven Michigan. Henry’s father is a violinist and his mother is a famous Opera singer. When Clare and Henry meet in the present, they both live in the Loop area of Chicago (which is the main setting of the book). So a lot of their outings and places mentioned in the novel are very up scale, which is fine, but it brings some snottiness to the characters (mostly Clare) which is unavoidable due to her upbringing.

Third, I’m convinced the author drags the book on for the sake of taking up space. Remember, the novel is 531 pages and the author uses a lot of those pages to list a lot of unnecessary things: rock bands, food, a very long winded idea of how Henry feels about his time traveling episodes, or how Clare feels when he’s gone and what she does (like paint and sculpt). I understand it could be important information to know, but it could also be shortened, to like 350 pages max.

Fourth, there are a few non white characters in this novel who portray stereotypical roles which are hard to go unnoticed: a happy, female, black cook, a happy, black, security guard (who’s always willing to help Henry after he returns from time traveling) and a passive Fillipina (who is Gomez’s girlfriend and soon to be wife). Let’s just stop with stereotypical POC roles. Thanks.

And finally, if you’ve read the book, I HATED GOMEZ!! His character was a sarcastic, annoying, conniving, dick who publicly expressed his feelings for Clare, sometimes in front of Henry and his own fiancé. Which once again, since in the future Clare and Henry were destined, I guess explains why Henry never felt threatened. Gratefully, in the movie, Gomez isn’t a dick.

If you’ve read the Time Traveler’s Wife, what are your thoughts about it? Have you watched the movie? Which did you like more?

xoxo

Ambria E

 

 

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