Recent Read: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I started reading The Time Traveler's Wife a couple of weeks ago when we were traveling to and from Charlotte to visit friends. I got about halfway through the book, but when we got home, life got in the way a little bit and I hadn't picked it up since.

Well, on Sunday, I finally had the opportunity and the desire to sit down with it again, and frankly, I couldn't put it down. After work yesterday, I ran home, curled up in my pajamas and fuzzy socks, snuggled with Tess and a warm blanket, and finished it.

This is such a good book.

It came highly recommended, a book I had seen described as "the best book I've read in a long time," and "my favorite book I've read this year." But I'll admit that reading the synopsis on the back, I still didn't really know what to think about it.

A time traveler? I thought maybe I'd be dealing with a character traveling wayyy back into time, into different centuries, cultures, and who knows what else. And to be honest, I didn't know if I'd be into that. But it turned out to be so much better than I thought it would be. And it's true what they said. It's now become one of my favorite books.

The Time Traveler's Wife is the story of Henry, a man who has some kind of genetic abnormality that causes him to get displaced in (or to "travel" through) time, and his wife, Clare, who is frequently left behind. When time traveling, Henry is living his life out of order, while Clare is left to live hers in chronological time like the rest of us. Henry's time travels are not deliberate; he cannot control them. At any moment, he can disappear into the past or into the future, and he has no idea how long he will be gone. Neither does his wife.

Within the first few chapters, I came to understand Henry's time travels and how they work, and understood the author's method of storytelling. After that, it was not hard to follow. Niffenegger has created a story and has told it in a way that is so original, with characters who are so likeable, that I could not help but fall in love with this book. It is not your typical sappy love story. In fact, I didn't think it was sappy at all (do not judge the book by its back cover!).

I write for a living (not creatively, though), and like to write, so my husband has said to me before, "You should write a book about/like... (fill in the blank)." The fact of the matter is, I am just not that creative. Reading a book like The Time Traveler's Wife just solidifies my thoughts on that. While I was reading it, I was frequently in awe of how Niffenegger pulled it off. Many parts of the story are only given to you in pieces at a time, and you can only make complete sense of them once years have passed in the book. I found myself wondering, How the hell did she come up with this? How could she possibly have mapped this out in her head?

With that said, there was one part in particular that I thought was entirely too predictable. I'm also not sure I was completely in love with the ending, but I think that's mostly because I was so captured by the story and really wanted more.

I would like to say so much more, but don't want to give anything away.

This book gets two thumbs up. Way up. And I'd love to discuss it in the comments if anyone out there has read it. Speak up! And if you haven't read it, and want to... stay out of the comments until you have. :)

Oh! This book is also being made into a movie starring Eric Bana (AKA Hulk from that crappy Hulk movie), and Rachel McAdams. I'm not so sure about Eric Bana in this role, but I *heart* Rachel McAdams, and I think she is the perfect Clare. I saw somewhere that it might be released around Christmas, but I couldn't find confirmation of that on IMDB, so who knows.

Until then... read the book!


Sarah November 11, 2008 at 3:29 PM  

The movie is still being advertised as a 2008 release, so that doesn't leave much time! Who knows what will happen. I haven't read the book, but it does sound interesting (even a sci-fi hater such as myself could probably get into it).

As for Eric Bana, he has a lot of depth - don't judge him just on the (crappy) Hulk movie!

Heather November 11, 2008 at 3:33 PM  

Hey Sarah.

That's the thing--it's NOT sci-fi! I know it kind of sounds like it, but it's not. I don't like sci-fi either. :)

And Eric Bana, I definitely have a hard time getting past Hulk (the only thing I've ever seen him in). However, there is more that bothers me about his casting. He just doesn't fit "Henry" in my head as much as Rachel McAdams fits Clare.

Cristina P from MD,  November 11, 2008 at 3:42 PM  

Ditto on it not being sci-fi. Sci-fi is gross!

This book IS amazing! I read it in early summer of this year and have been waiting for the movie to come out ever since. I love me some Rachel McAdams!

Heather, another captivating book I have read is Lovely Bones, also a book gone movie, starring Ryan Gosling (love him). Not sure if you have read this yet, but I recommend it!

Heather November 11, 2008 at 3:48 PM  

It's always nice to see another Cristina who spells her name like my sister-in-law. :)

I have read Lovely Bones. Actually, it was quite a long time ago... I think summer of 2004! I did like it a lot, but it was a little on too disturbing to make my "favorite books" list. I did not know it was being made into a movie. Very interesting. The author went to Syracuse University (not far from me), so there is local interest in her. I know she also wrote a book called "Lucky," before Lovely Bones, which I believe might be at last semi-autobiographical about a young woman who gets raped at SU. Not sure if I have my story straight on that one, as I have not yet read it. But that has been recommended to me as well.

Heather November 11, 2008 at 4:15 PM  

If you understood anything I said in that last post, god bless you.

Posted too fast.

Should have been " was a little too disturbing..." and " least semi-autobiographical..."

Linda November 11, 2008 at 4:32 PM  

Thank you for posting this. Many people have recommended it but I never understood what it was about. So thanks. I'll add it to my must read pile.

amybyrd November 11, 2008 at 5:09 PM  

loved this book, my mom gave it to me a couple Christmas breaks ago and I loved it. I have never read anything quite like it since.

Sandy November 11, 2008 at 5:29 PM  

Hi Heather! I found your blog while I was wedding planning and have never taken the time to comment until now.

I LOVED this book too! I thought I was going to hate it b/c of the time travel thing, but cried my eyes out reading it. I recommend it to everyone who is looking for a good book. I cannot wait for the movie! I also LOVE Rachel McAdams and think she was perfectly cast! I was thinking Johnny Depp for Henry :)

Some other good books I couldn't put down: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (LOVED this!), The Kite-Runner (I think you've read this), and Life of Pi (took a while to get into it, but it's very unique).

Also, I have to say you are a great writer and thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas! I've gone back and read some of your older posts (from your wedding planning blog) and saw that you wanted to "meet" some of your readers...I don't have a blog (maybe sometime soon I'll get the courage to start one) but here are some pictures from my wedding in September:

cristina p from md,  November 11, 2008 at 5:32 PM  

Heather, I totally understood. I often get carried away when I post comments!

True, the book was a bit disturbing. It raised topics that are difficult to read and talk about but the style of writing was interesting to me. I wanted to read the authors other book that you mentioned, but it seemed a bit too heavy.

Kim,  November 11, 2008 at 6:06 PM  

Hi Heather, I also found your blog while wedding planning but have kept up with you because I love the way you write! I've never commented before, but I had to tell you...this is my favorite book of all time. I've read it probably 5 or 6 times and love it just as much every time. I'm always so happy to hear that someone else read it and loved it! Like you said, it is an amazing love story that doesn't feel sappy. So I have to know, which part did you feel was predictable?

Vanessa November 11, 2008 at 6:47 PM  

Hi Heather,
I keep commenting because I so enjoy reading the blog!
I'll definitely read this novel - thanks! I really recommend 'The History of Love' by Nicole Krauss - sounds corny but it's not what you think and also left me in awe of the author's creativity because of the time shifts etc. Genius, really. Hope Tess is feeling better!

Wawa Blackmore November 11, 2008 at 6:51 PM  

Ditto Kim, I'm curious to know which part you didn't like.

I'm also not a fan of the ending, I don't like how it implies that Clare never really stops waiting for Henry. I don't like the idea that she was that dependent on him.

Favorite part: on the swings after she meets his dad for the first time.

Section that could have been left out and I wouldn't miss it at all: when they tie that guy to the tree. It just seemed out of place and weird. And again, made claire seem like she was totally weak without Henry...which might have been what the author was trying to do, but I didn't like it.

Sorry to ramble, this was actual the Baltimore Knottie book club book, except we totally failed at the discussing part of the book club. We all read it and then never really talked about it!

Heather November 11, 2008 at 7:25 PM  


It wasn't that I didn't like it, it was just that I saw it coming from a mile away: Henry's death.

From the very first time that the scene is mentioned (when Clare is 13), when she wakes up and hears her name called and goes out and sees Henry standing there in the meadow with her father and brother dressed in hunting gear... I knew that he was dead. So for the rest of the book, I knew he was going to die at 43. I was just reading and reading, waiting to know more about it and waiting for it to actually happen.

With the ending, I just felt like we were cheated in a way, because we didn't get to "witness" their last meeting/conversation. As for Clare waiting around her whole life for Henry... I think it's possible that she did move on, but still looked forward to that day when they would meet again. I didn't really take it like she had been waiting (or saving herself) all her life for him to come back to her. But with love like that, I don't think she was ever truly going to get over Henry, even if she did move on. So it seems only natural that she'd look forward to the day when they would meet again. Does that make sense?

I'll tell you one thing I didn't see coming, though: The amputataion of Henry's feet. It was actually a little weird, I thought, and I had trouble understanding how it really fit into the plot. What was the purpose of it? What did it say about Henry? What did we learn about him through his developed disability?

Sandy November 11, 2008 at 7:28 PM  

I am also curious which part you found predictable - I guess when he finds himself in the cage.

I agree the ending didn't provide the type of closure I was looking for and it's kind of quiet for how emotional/action-packed the rest of the book is, but I really liked how sweet and simple it was...

I would say the most memorable part of the book for me is when Henry meets Alma and Clare is racing over to see Henry...just broke my heart to think about longing to see someone that much.

Heather November 11, 2008 at 7:30 PM  

Oh, and if we're talking about favorite parts...

I loved how their daughter was a time traveler. I loved that Henry could finally fully relate to someone, and that Alba had more than Henry ever had in the way of understanding of her condition. By the time she was born, she had a doctor, family, and friends who were already aware of this "condition" and she was never going to have to explain it away. In the scene in the museum, when Henry "meets" her for the first time, it's pretty clear that other people now know about the condition, too. Like it's a commonly known disorder.

Toward the very end, we learn that Henry and Alba have time traveled to different places together, both at different ages in different places, and I thought it was wonderful that they got to have all of that extra time together, even though Henry technically died when Alba was just six years old.

Kim,  November 12, 2008 at 9:35 AM  

Ok I'm with you on Henry's death in the field being predictable. But I honestly felt that it made the ending better for me because I knew that it was was sort of less traumatic. I was so attached to Henry (and Clare too) by the end of the book that if he had just died all of a sudden I think I would have been really upset. But as it was, I knew it was coming, I knew the New Year's party they threw on the night he died would allow Clare to be surrounded by all their closest family and friends, and it made it seem more ok to me.

And as for favorite parts, I love Alba and Henry's connection, I love that it's made clear in the museum that the condition is now understood a little better than when Henry was struggling through it (I think Alba just says to the teacher, "He's like me" and the teacher is like "Oh ok" and lets them go off together). And when Clare races up just as he goes away...oh I think I cry every time.

My fiance and I are currently looking to buy our first house, and during the search as we go into house after house I keep thinking of the part of this book where they're house-hunting and Henry just walks into each house, looks out the back window and says "Not it" because he's been into the future and has seen Clare, happy and working in her studio in the backyard. It makes me wish I could KNOW what our future house looks like and just have to find it! :o)

Gia November 12, 2008 at 3:44 PM  

One of my favorite books. I sobbed at the end...caught me at a weak moment when I was about 2 hours overdue to go to sleep!

I am currently rereading Twilight in anticipation of the movie.

My Dream Ring November 14, 2008 at 12:50 AM  

I went to B&N to purchase the book, can't wait to get started!

Lindsey November 14, 2008 at 2:31 PM  

This is one of my very favorite books, and I can always go back to it. The end always makes me cry, even though I know what happens!

I don't know how I feel about it being made into a movie, I feel like it is one of those books that should just be left as a book, there is so much a movie could lose in the adaptation. Also, I can't see Eric Bana as anything but the Hulk...he has doomed himself for me with that one! But I do <3 Rachel McAdams.

Vanessa April 25, 2009 at 5:56 AM  

I've just read this and thought it was wonderful. Being the cynic that I am (or can be) I found it hard to accept the time-traveling part. But towards the end I really suspended my disbelief. A beautiful and original book, I thought, though not one can I imagine ever picking up again somehow. Not sure why. The ending perplexed me: why does Clare say that she's the time traveler now?

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