Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (audio)

I must admit this, I read The Time Traveler’s Wife back when it first came out and did not like it. We are going to the theatre as part of my FLICKS Book and Movie Club this week to watch the movie so I thought I would refresh myself and read the book again. There is a VERY long wait on the actual book at my library, so I listened to the audiobook instead.

The audiobook was read by William Hope and Laura Lefkow. I really liked having the book read by a male and female narrator depending on whether the chapter was narrated by Claire or by Henry. It gave the book a voice and personality if you will. I enjoyed it.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a much beloved book that is the story of Henry DeTamble and his wife Claire Abshire. Henry first met Claire when she was 20 and he was 28; Claire first met Henry she was 6 and he was a middle aged man. Henry has chrono-displacement disorder, which means that he travels through time spontaneously. Life as a time traveler is dangerous and also causes a lot of heartache for the people that Henry loves.

This book is first and foremost a love story. It is the story of two different people and how they get together and cope with the disorder of one of them. Henry and Claire both are well rounded people with flaws and quirks. I really liked them both. I also liked the mystery of how it would all end. The love story and the time travel elements were fantastic to me – and I loved this part of the novel. I am a great fan of time travel literature in general.

I really didn’t like other aspects of the novel. SPOILER ALERT. My biggest problem with the novel was the weird sexual stuff going on. My biggest dislike was the fact that 40 something year old Henry travels back in time to deflower 18-year old Claire. It seems like every man’s fantasy, but really, would I want my 40 something year old husband to travel back in time to deflower my 18-year old self. No. I just found it weird and distasteful. I still felt the same way this second time through the novel. Call me a prude, but I think Niffenegger could use some help writing romantic scenes. They were a little too detailed and clinical at times. I also didn’t like how a time traveling Henry and Claire have a night of passion, with another Henry slumbering right next to them. What?? Claire and her best friend’s husband going at it while her friend is out with her daughter. Classy. And last of all, what the heck was teenage Henry caught doing with another teenage Henry by his father? I’m sure I probably don’t want to know.

I also didn’t like how Henry was a cad around town, but he felt different about his wife when he discovered that she had one other lover and hadn’t been faithful to only him throughout her life. It seemed more than a bit sexist to me.

I thought Claire’s grandma was very wise when she said that in fairy tales the children have the adventures, but the mothers stay home waiting. Good premonition for Claire’s future. I also liked Niffenegger’s descriptions, especially of the Gomez house looking like a glacier of toys had passed through depositing toys. That sounds like my house!

To me, one of the main themes of the books was whether one has free will or whether life is predetermined. I think this book plainly states that life is predetermined. I often felt kind of sorry for Claire. She obviously loved Henry, but she seemed to have no free will. This is how life is and will be and you have no choice on the matter. I do believe in destiny, but I also believe in free will.

I liked the setting of the book in South Haven, Michigan and Chicago. I am originally from Michigan and we often went to the beach in South Haven while I was growing up. Niffenegger was born in South Haven, but moved to Chicago at age 2 when her dad (a civil engineer like me!) got a new job. She spent a lot of time in South Haven visiting her extended family.

Overall, it was a good book, but not great. I know this book is much beloved. Am I in the minority here or did anyone else not love this book? I did like it better this second time through. I’ll also admit that I did cry at the end with the bittersweet meeting at the end with old Claire and Henry.

My favorite quote, as stated by Claire: "It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays."


  1. I really loved the book and am looking forward to the movie.

    I'm also reading The White Queen.

  2. I wish more audio books would use multiple readers. There have been several books that I listened to that I know I would have liked better if a man wouldn't have been trying to imitate a woman's voice.

  3. I'm in the minority group, too, so I appreciate a different review. I didn't like Henry -- I wasn't sympathetic toward Claire (what did she like about Henry to put her life on hold?) -- and I was distracted by all the F-bombs. I read 500 of the 560 pages, put it down, and never finished it.

    P.S. I blog hopped over here from Red Lady's Room

  4. I guess if there too much f-bombs, then I'll forego...and the weirdness of the sex and relationships sounds kind of creepy. So I think I'll not read this one. thanks for the honest review!

  5. I didn't like the movie and thought the book might vindicate it for me, but after reading your review I don't know if I want to go to the trouble. The creepiness in the movie really bothered me and it sounds like that intensifies in the book. I think I'll put this one off for awhile.

  6. I actually really loved this book. It didn't bother me about the age difference. They were meant to be together... and so it was. I also loved the movie.

    You know, I read this book like 2 years ago (maybe more). I had no preconceived ideas about it. I did love it. Although, the jumping back and forth made it a bit difficult, at times.

  7. I felt very guilty for not liking this book. When it first came out everyone was talking about it. I thought - I love time travel novels. I read it and didn't really like it that well. I thought if I gave it another chance I might love it, but that still didn't work. I really like elements of it, but other parts of it really turn me off.

  8. When I was actually reading the book I accepting everything as it was and absolutely loved it (though I skimmed the sex stuff)--I think I cried for the last fifty pages straight. I also appreciated the complex way things came together.

    Afterwards, though, when I really thought about it some of the sex stuff creeped me out. I loved the emotional impact once you accept that Henry and Claire are soulmates, but Niffenegger never really shows them falling in love, more just acting like animals.