The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger


I feel like there are no words that I can say that can adequately describe The Time Traveler’s Wife…but I’ll try. Within the first few pages of the book, I knew that this would be one of the most emotionally gripping books that I have read. It proved to be not only that, but also the most powerful portrayal of love that I have read in the printed form.

Audrey Niffenegger has written a novel that comes around only once so often. Her words encapsulate and embody the true essence of passion and the raw and honest emotion in intimate human relationships. The Time Traveler’s Wife is the story of two lovers, Henry and Clare. The story is beautifully told through alternating vignettes from both Henry and Clare’s point of views at different times in their lives. Henry is a librarian and Clare is an artist. Henry is also a time traveler. Clare first meets Henry when she is 6 and Henry is 36. At this point in time, Henry is already married to Clare in his present to give you an idea of how this works. There lives carry on in this fashion with brief moments shared until their paths cross in each other’s present times when they can form a life together and their time together becomes more stable and regular. But Henry’s time travels continue leaving Clare to worry while he is away.

The spontaneity of Henry’s appearances facilitate an intimacy between Clare and Henry that is pure beauty. Every second spent together is meaningful…nothing is wasted. There are other relationships between these characters…Henry and his father who was once an amazing violinist and is now an alcoholic who suffers from the loss of Henry’s mother – a once famous opera singer. Clare and her mother – a mentally ill woman who is an elitist yet is a fragile poet behind closed doors…Gomez and Charisse, Clare and Henry’s best friends who have been through everything with them….but in the middle of all of these relationships, Henry and Clare are still in the center.

Niffenegger paints a portrait that is real and raw in this novel…funny how a novel based on a time traveler can hold so much truth. There are moments of pure pain and heart ache..there are moments of pure joy…there’s everything in between. There’s passion, tears, fights, secrets, bruises, and smiles. I found myself overwhelmed at times when reading this novel. It begs the reader to become vulnerable…open yourself up…feel these emotions.

There are certain scenes that will haunt me, but in a good way…scenes powerful with love. Scenes that involve wings, scenes that involve Thai food, scenes that involve curling up together on a sofa. I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of self reflection since reading this book and just being amazed at how lucky I am…at the love that I have, the relationship I have…it may not be perfect, but no relationship is. But there is beauty in any relationship – in the tiny things..the little things that we forget to cherish…the little things that Clare and Henry cherish because they learn to cherish each moment.

As I said earlier, this novel has stayed with me all throughout the day while I have read it and I’m sure it will stay with me for days. This is one of the best books, if not the best, I have read this year. I can’t believe it has been sitting on my shelf for so long. It makes me wonder what other treasures may be sitting there undiscovered.

I look forward to the rest of Niffenegger’s career. She can count on me to buy her next book, Her Fearful Symmetry, which she is currently writing. You can check the FAQ on her website to read about it. She has two illustrated novels out as well that look interesting that you can find on Amazon. They’ve been described by many reviewers as similar to Edward Gorey. I may check those out. The first is The Three Incestuous Sisters and the second is The Adventuress.

Henry in the Prologue:

And Clare, always Clare. Clare in the morning, sleepy and crumple-faced. Clare with her arms plunging into the papermaking vat, pulling up the mold and shaking it so, and so, to meld the fibers. Clare reading, with her hair hanging over the back of the chair, massaging balm into her cracked red hands before bed. Clare’s low voice is in my ear often.

I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow.”

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44 Responses

  1. Wow. What a wonderful story.

    I’ve got it on my shelf. Maybe it’s time I put it on my nightstand and read it.

    Thanks for the great review, Chris.

    cjh

  2. It’s wonderful CJ…I highly recommend that you pull it off your shelf and move it to the nightstand 😉 That is if you can fit it in with those challenges!

  3. Fine. You talked me into it!! Since this book came out, I always figured it was too “romancy” for me. The whole goth girl in me doesn’t do Romance! But I guess maybe I was wrong!

    Sorry about the job thing, by the way. I know you’ll find something though!

  4. Oh come on Stephanie! lol…if I read this one then you can too…It’s romancy in a totally different way..not at all in a lovey dovey mushy way. This one’s raw and honest. In fact, there’s lots of talk about all kinds of great punk..old punk music and The Violent Femmes and Echo and the Bunnymen…you’ll love it!

  5. I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. It was easily my favorite book of all last year. My wife enjoyed this book as well and I hope you are able to share it with Megan as well.

    Stephanie- Give it a try. This book is powerful love story but not in a sterotypical romance book way. Give it a few chapters and I promise you’ll be hooked.

    If I was a book seller I’d offer this book with a money back guarentee if anyone was unsatisied with the story. I’d never worry about anyone ever takeing me up on the offer. This book is that good. Carl? Back me up on this one. 🙂

  6. Jeff, I totally agree with you…I can’t think of a single person that I wouldn’t recommend this book too…ok, maybe my Grandma and my 12 year old brother. But aside from them…This book really was that good. Money back guarantee to everyone!

  7. it sounds like you really enjoyed this book!

    i’ve read a fair few reviews, but you really manage to capture the beauty of this book.

    a lot of people have said positive things about it… gotta read…!

  8. Great review, Chris. This really is a brilliant book, one that touched me deeply. Reading this and The Thirteenth Tale in the same week I found myself seriously heartbroken.

    Stephanie – definitely try it, I’m not into romance either. This is a love story but not a “romance”.

  9. I think it would be a whole lot easier to ask you what books you Don’t like! Are there any? lol..

    I have one question: was this a personal choice to read a “romance” just before you go to visit Megan? (*grin*)

  10. This sounds like a must-read!

  11. I enjoyed this book, too – it reminded me a little of the film Memento, in the way that you constantly had to resift events through your mind to see the new pattern they made as the story moved forward in time. Definitely bittersweet, sniff. And of course I loved that he was a librarian. Yay, librarians! 🙂

  12. Stephanie, Audrey Niffenegger herself, if not in practice, in spirit, has a bit of goth in her. Her fascination with dark things, like amputations for example, should be enough to cause you to want to read her work. 🙂

    Time Traveler’s Wife was, for me, one of those books that I would describe as an immersion novel…you never know for sure which books will be those novels, but you know it when you start reading it and your whole self becomes immersed in the act of reading. You go into that ‘zone’ where all you can do is get lost in the story. I end up really enjoying most of the books I read, but few are immersion experiences. Since reading Time Traveler’s Wife almost 2 years ago I have only had about a half dozen other such experiences amongst many more ‘good’ reads.

    TTW is such an incredible book to *experience*. I love how real the characters were, with their own unique careers and interests…they were not cookie cutter characters. I think the novel resonated partly because many of the interests of Clare and Henry are interests that Audrey shares, it made the characters feel more three-dimensional, more real.

    Out of all the books I have ever read, the emotional impact of this book probably stayed with me the longest. I literally sobbed during the last 40-50 pages of the story which I read in one sitting. Openly weeping during page after page probably looked odd to my daughter (maybe that is why she doesn’t read! 😉 ) but I couldn’t help it, I was so wrapped up in the lives of these characters.

    I am so glad that you have now read and love TTW. And I highly encourage all of you who have been thinking about it to take the plunge. This one lives up to the hype.

  13. I forgot to mention that the sculpture in the picture and the ending quote for this review are both very nice touches. Well done!

  14. This is one of my all-time favorite books. As Chris said, it just hooks you. It was one of those books that grabs your emotions. I also cried, nonstop, for the last section of the book.

    Who is your sculpture by Chris? As Carl alluded, it’s a perfect fit to the book!

  15. You describe it perfectly Chris! I’m not really a weeper at all, but this had me going several times, and most of the times not for the parts that were sad, but for the bits that were brave, strong, intense and seemingly either just, unfair, or both at the same time.

    The Adverturess is a beautiful book, literally. I received it as a Christmas present last year and sat in the corner of a room full of people until I’d finished it.

  16. Jean Pierre, You really should read this one. I can’t say enough about it. Such a great read. I’m sure your wife would love it as well!

    Quix, I have The Thirteenth Tale on my RIP list, so I’ll save the next heap of depression for then 😉 Not that The Time Traveler’s Wife was depressing, but like you said…very heartbreaking…

    Deslily, lol…there are books I don’t like, I just don’t review those. The last book that I wasn’t crazy about was Grendel. I had no idea that this book was going to be as “romantic” as it was. I really didn’t know much about it. Definitely not a romance, but it is about relationships…beautiful book 🙂

    Robin, Definitely a must read! I hadn’t realized how much of a must read it was until I read it! Now I’m recommending it to everyone I know.

    Darla, I know exactly what you mean. I enjoyed seeing the connections in the book of past events coming together. Definitely a bittersweet book. I’m sure you loved that he was a librarian 🙂 It fit his personality perfectly.

    Carl, I definitely agree that Niffenegger has a little goth in her 😉 Picked up on that in her book and her art seems to reflect that as well.

    I couldn’t agree with you more Carl. I got lost in this novel. An “immersion novel” is the perfect term for it. You fully experience this novel from page one. I felt like I was living the characters lives…not just a fly on the walls, but seeing from their eyes, feeling with their hearts. I’ve had very few similar experiences to this, though I have had a few others. The last 50 pages were indeed intense! Boy were those heart wrenching…but written perfectly..

    And thanks for the compliments 🙂 I found that sculpture in the markets in Mexico and fell in love with it and I kept glancing at it while reading this novel. It seemed to fit.

    Kim, I honestly don’t know who did this sculpture, but it’s quite popular in Mexico…I found it in the markets in Mexico and quite a few vendors had it…and I found it in more than one city while I was there. The initials RNF are carved into the back of it.

    Stormfilled, There were MANY parts of this book that choked me up 😉 I’d say Niffenegger really has a gift with words.

    I’m so glad to hear from someone who’s read one of her other books. I’ll have to look into The Adventuress…from what I saw on Amazon it looks like something I’d really enjoy.

  17. LOL! Chris – You’re probably right this book probably would play very well to the 12 year old brother crowd.

    I will agree with you guys about the immerssion factor of this novel. I normally find it very hard to read one book from cover to cover. I generally jump around among several books at one time for different reasons. THis book though sucked me in and I finished it in one week which is very fast for me.

    Quix – I bought The Thirteenth Tale last year and haven’t read it yet but I will join Chris in placing it on my RIP pile.

  18. darla d – I will echo your Memento comment. I agree that is a great movie to compare this book too.

  19. Jeff, Yeah I just couldn’t put this one down! It was a page turner..I’d look up at the clock and time just flew by. I’m really looking forward to The Thirteenth Tale. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about that one. Can’t wait for the R.I.P. challenge! My second favorite genre! lol..

  20. I’ll back you on that money back guarantee all the way, Jeff.

    Deslily, I am the same way as Chris. I almost never take the time to bash a book or film I don’t like. Occasionally I do, but not often. I look at myself and realize that I have such wide reading tastes and I like stuff that some people would think is total crap. I assume most everyone is like me in that their reading tastes are widely varied as well and I hate to think of tearing apart a book that someone else liked. I don’t like the idea that something I said might make someone else feel stupid, because that is never my intent.

    I know there are books that I just LOVE that people would just as the dumbest thing ever written and/or a complete waste of time. And yet they are books that I read over and over again and enjoy every time. I want to afford others the same right to enjoy whatever they want without me saying something that hurts them or makes them question whether or not they should like what they like.

    All that said, I will still occasionally bash stuff, like I did with Aeon Flux. Almost always that bashing comes from the fact that I was disappointed with it, not that someone else should feel bad for liking it.

    Sorry, this is your blog Chris, shouldn’t be butting in! 🙂

  21. Don’t be sorry Carl! I hog your comments section all the time :p I like the comments section to be a place for discussion so comment away! I never mind 🙂

  22. Thanks Chris, I appreciate your ‘hogging’ of the comments very much!

    Here’s a question for those who have fell in love with the book:

    Since the movie rights have been optioned, how do you feel about this book being made into a film?

  23. Carl, I would actually very much like to see this book made into a film if it’s done right. That’s a BIG “if”. I think that it could be done by a director like Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep), Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Millions), or Mark Forster (Stay, Stranger Than Fiction, Finding Neverland). If one of those three direct it…I’ll be happy!

    I have my cast picked out as well 😉 I’d love to see Henry played by Ryan Gosling…I pictured Henry as very similar to Ryan Gosling’s character in the movie “Stay”. I don’t know if you’ve seen that one, but I recommend it if you haven’t. I also think Gosling is a great actor.

    I love Anne Hathaway’s look for Clare. I’ve only seen her in The Devil Wears Prada and she’s playing Jane Austen in the upcoming Becoming Jane…I think that she would make a very good Clare…Just dye her hair red!

    And the little girl that played Uma Thurman’s kid in Kill Bill instantly popped in my head when I thought of someone to play Alba. Cute kid. Though she may be too old now.

    Yeah, I seem to have the whole movie planned in my head already huh?

    I think this book has great potential for a movie, but it also has great potential for disaster…there are so many little scenes that have to make it in there. It’s a very intricate novel and that’s often hard to translate onto the screen. But given the right director and a really good screenwriter, I think it can be done. I would trust this book in the hands of any of the above directors…they’ve never let me down. I also think that Niffenegger would be very careful about how her novel is portrayed…but then again, you never know how much freedom she loses in the process of the translation from book to screen.

  24. Movie rights. I’m torn, torn, torn about it. I generally have so little faith in Hollywood getting adaptions right. For every LOTR there are twice as many adaptations that I hate. Since I know it will happen anyhow I hope they go with unknown actors not big names like Tom Cruise and such. In any event the best thing about the movie no matter how it is will be that 1,000’s of more new readers will pick up the orginal book.

  25. Oh no! I just saw on IMDB that they already have a director and it’s Robert Schwentke…I don’t know him..he directed Flight Plan and I never saw that one. In addition, Eric Bana is playing Henry and Rachel McAdams is playing Clare…not at all what I envisioned.

    Now I’m nervous…looking at the IMDB page doesn’t do a whole lot to make me excited about this as a film now. I liked Rachel McAdams in Red Eye, so I’ll be ok with her as Clare. Eric Bana as Henry…really can’t see that.

    Oh well…only time will tell!

  26. And the guy who wrote the screenplay also wrote the screenplay for The Notebook…never saw it, so I can’t really judge it…just not fitting together for me.

  27. I like the director choices and I would go with Marc Forestor if I could pick one of those three. Finding Neverland is an incredible film.

    As for actors. I could buy Anne Hathaway and Ryan Gosling although I already associate him already with The Notebook movie. I’m a sucker for that movie. I think him and Rachel McAdams are wonderful in it. I’d much rather go with these tyoe of actors than a Brad Pitt or George Clooney or such but hey that’s just me.

  28. Ok. I loved The Notebook and Rachel McAdams was in it and she was great but Eric Bana ACK! not my choice for Henry at all. Although let’s hear what the ladies have to say.

  29. Rachal McAdams is a great choice, but I’m not sold on Bana. He doesn’t really do a anything for me. Hopefully they aren’t in production yet and things will change. Although I’ll go see the film, this is one I am actually not looking forward to. I’d like to see it done, of course, if it is done well, but unfortunately the chances for that are very slim.

    Then again, I’d rather see them try a book adaptation that doing stuff like this new movie, No Reservations, which is a remake of a fairly recent and wonderful foreign film, Mostly Martha. I am so annoyed by this. I only hope it will somehow drive people to pick up and watch the original. The trailers for this version make me cringe every time.

  30. Yeah…now that I’ve discovered the IMDB page I’m really leary of the movie. I’ve never been an Eric Bana fan. Come on..his most memorable role so far is The Hulk and he’s going to play HENRY?! No way! I still say Ryan Gosling..or maybe Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Red Eye, Batman Begins).

    Carl, I haven’t heard anything about No Reservations and I haven’t seen Mostly Martha! I’ll have to check out Mostly Martha. I’m a big fan of foreign films though..I’ll have to check it out.

  31. Excellent review, Chris. I’m glad you loved it like I did. 🙂

  32. It was so good Bookfool! I didn’t want it to end 😦

  33. I’m going to be the villain and disagree with Memento comparisons, largely because I absolutely hated that film. *grin*

    As far as a film adaptation goes…well…as I tend say when film adaptations come up like this – I’d really rather not see it as a film, at least not yet. In ten or more years time, sure, why not…

    I love films, and there are plenty of adaptations of books that I have enjoyed, indeed loved.

    On the subject of remakes – blah. I tend not to be too bothered by them, since they have always been done, and sometimes they can be brilliant. That said, when they are awful and completely miss the atmosphere, the flavour of the original, it really is dreadful. Recent(ish) example – The Wicker Man – the remake with Nicolas Cage was for the most part just awful…and I sat through it wishing I was watching the original, and hoping that at least some of the other people watching would seek out and love the original.

    The remake of Ringu as The Ring on the other hand, I quite liked despite being rather fond of the Japanese original. It wasn’t perfect, but I found much to love in it as a separate film.

    Will have to look up Mostly Martha now. 🙂

  34. Beautiful review, Chris. I will definitely be reading this one.

  35. Wow. I’ve talked with a lot of people who have loved this book, but no one has actually went into why it was such a wonderful and beautiful book. Thank you for doing so, now I’m definitely going to have to read it. 🙂

  36. I’m not patently against remakes, there are several that I enjoy as well. I just hate it when they feel the need to remake a film like Mostly Martha that is only a few years old and doesn’t need to be remade.

    You didn’t like Memento, Quix? The horror!!! 😉

  37. Quix, I’m not a fan of remakes either. The only movies that are occasionally remade well are horror movies, like you mentioned. I loved The Ring as well…hated The Ring 2, but then again the second Ringu was stupid too. I’m also looking forward to Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween which comes out in the US in October. The only reason I’m looking forward to this is because I’ve liked Rob Zombies other 2 horror films..though they’ve been cheesy at times. Halloween is my favorite horror franchise and in any other directors hands I’d be really pissed off that they were remaking it. But then again, for ever remake of Ringu, there’s the god awful remake of The Haunting of Hill House (I loved the black and white original!). OK, I rambled enough…

    Nymeth, Oh, you’ll love this one! Go get it! lol…Seriously though, it’s a beautiful book and I really think that you’ll enjoy it.

    Court, I’m glad that you’ve decided to read it! I think everyone should. It’s such a great book..really is, you won’t be disappointed in it.

    Carl, I wasn’t nuts about Memento either *ducks* lol..I don’t even really remember why though, it’s been so long since I watched it. I remember though that I bought it on DVD having never seen it convinced that I would love it…watched it twice and just couldn’t get into it. That was years ago though…I’ll give it another try for you and Jeff and Darla 😉

  38. Great book! I loved it, too. Now you’ll really have to come visit Chicago. It was fun to see the setting of which I’m so familiar within a book which was so gripping.

  39. I thought that was amazing to Bellezza…she must have really put some work into managing their ages and the different scenes of time travel, etc. It all flowed so well. I can imagine how cool it must have been to read the book in Chicago! When I finally get to visit Chicago, I’m going to have to bring this one along with me.

  40. I LOVED this book and have bought it for a couple of family members to read too. It was really unique and unusual, whilst still being really touching.

  41. Rhinoa…I have quite a few people that I plan on buying this one for as well. Great book!

  42. Jeff and I were talking about this yesterday and we both think Memento is one of those movies that your first encounter with it probably won’t change with subsequent viewings. We could be wrong. I remember being blown away by it the first time I saw it and then loving watching all the clues the second time…same way with Fight Club. Its okay that Memento wasn’t up your alley.

  43. Now Fight Club I loved! I own that one. I own the book too, but I haven’t read it yet. Strange fact: I own almost all of Chuck Palahniuk’s books and I’ve never read any of them! I bought them all from a guy who was selling them (signed, hardcovers) for like $2 a piece because he was moving…couldn’t pass that up!

  44. Susan Boyle is an immensely talented lady who’s been subjected to considerable ridicule in the media. IMHO she deserves every bit of success that she is having.

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