Thoughts on *The Time Traveler's Wife* by Audrey Niffenegger

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Audio CD )
  • Read by:  William Hope and Laura Lefkow
  • Publisher: HighBridge Company; Unabridged; 17.75 hours on 16 CDs edition (May 13, 2008)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598877373
  • Back-of-the-box blurb:   Clare and Henry have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six.  They were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry was thirty-one.  Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future.  His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

    Clare and Henry’s story unfolds from both points of view, depicting the effects of time travel on their marriage and their passionate love for each other.  They attempt to live normal lives … All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control.

    She Is Too Fond of Books’ thoughts:  When I picked up The Time Traveler’s Wife, I didn’t expect to be so totally captivated by this love story that criss-crosses back and forth through time and ages.  I’m the first to admit that I’m not a fan of fantasy or science fiction, but this worked for me … more than worked, it so captivated me that I barely felt the hours I spent painting while listening to it (well, I felt the ceiling painting; it’s hard to ignore Linen White splatters on head, face, and arms!).

    A line that stands out, in the words of Henry DeTamble:

    It’s easy to be omniscient when you’ve done it all before.

    The novel takes place in the present day … as much as possible for a novel about a time traveler!  The bulk of the novel is about the marriage of Clare and Henry – a couple with a love so fierce and powerful (and passionate!), that it sustains them while they struggle with the difficulties of Henry’s disorder.

    Niffenegger builds the novel around Henry and Clare, but minor characters play significant roles as well.  Their relationships with family and friends are explored – who do they tell of Henry’s situation, and under what circumstances?  Will the news be greeted with support or scorn?  There’s a bit of theology and philosophy, both implied and discussed directly by the characters - can/should Henry change the future?  What’s the difference between determinism and free will?  The devoted faith of Clare’s Catholic upbringing ebbs and flows as she grapples with the challenges they face.

    In many ways, I was reminded of The Unnamed, Joshua Ferris’ novel of a man struggling with a physical problem for which there is no cure; like Tim and Jane, Henry and Clare work with the disease (or, “chrono-displacement”) to the best of their ability, buoyed by the strength of their love.  The Time Traveler’s Wife also brought to mind Sundays at Tiffany’s, a James Patterson novel about a young girl’s imaginary friend who becomes her lover when she is an adult.  While the premise of Sundays at Tiffany’s was a bit uncomfortable, I didn’t feel that at all with TTW; perhaps because it wasn’t told in a linear fashion, starting when Clare was a child, but beginning on their first date and going back and forth from there?

    The city of Chicago has a huge presence in the story.  I’ve never been to the city, aside from changing planes at O’Hare, but I was able to pick up on the personality of various areas and venues, from Lincoln Park and the waterfront to the Field Museum and the Newberry Library.  I imagine The Time Traveler’s Wife is especially delightful to someone familiar with Chicago.

    I haven’t read the print edition of The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I have yet to see the film.  I’m not sure I would have enjoyed started with the print edition – I may have found it confusing, or been put off by the fantastic nature of time travel.  The audiobook’s use of two readers (William Hope and Laura Lefkow), make clear the points of view.

    Overall, highly recommended!  I think the audiobook version was the right starting place for me; one day I’ll read the print edition, and I’ve got the film queued up on Netflix.

    FTC disclosure: I won this via a random giveaway on Twitter from @highBridgeAudio

    27 comments to Thoughts on *The Time Traveler’s Wife* by Audrey Niffenegger

    • I saw the movie and enjoyed it, so I bought the book, but haven’t read it yet. I’m looking forward to it, especially after your great review.

    • I read the book a couple of years ago, and then saw the movie maybe a month ago. There has been a lot of criticism of the movie by book readers, but I thought it was very good.

    • I really enjoyed the book when I read it. I wouldn’t say it became a favorite like it has for so many other people but it was definitely a read I remember fondly. I’m glad you liked it too – and that it distracted you from ceiling painting!

    • One of my daughters lives in Lincoln Park. I’ll have to ask if she’s read this yet. I think the audiobook may be the way for me to go with this book. Thanks for the review!

    • I really enjoyed this, too, though I can’t imagine having listened to it. It was very helpful to be able to flip back to other scenes and keep track of when something was happening.

      I remember hearing somewhere that AN wanted to write about waiting, and TTW came about as a result.

    • The movie isn’t as good as the book, I thought – tries to cram too much in! Also it was hard to tell when he’s supposed to be older (apart from the fact he goes slightly greyer at the temples!) Her new book, Her Fearful Symmetry, is ace though.

    • Certainly one of my all time favourite reads of the last decade. I am still undecided about seeing the film. Like another commenter I think i would have found it hard to listen to as I did find myself wanting to flick back and forth just like the story does!!

    • Beth Hoffman

      I read this book and it didn’t do a lot for me. In fact, I didn’t finish it. But I wonder now after reading your terrific review if I should give it a try in audio.

    • I have this title on my TBR Reading Challenge, just to force myself to get to it. I have the print copy, but I’m wondering if I should try the audio instead. I’d probably get to it quicker! A couple of my friends and my mom HATED this book. They were creeped out by it, and were confused with the changing of the time. I have to see what it is all about though.

    • I LOVED TTW (I read it, not listened to it) but the movie was pretty bad, mostly due to the fact that I can’t stand Eric Bana!

    • This is one of my favorite books. I wasn’t sure I’d like it at first but then I got into it and that was all it took. The movie version is a good adaptation.

    • michele

      I saw the movie first, then was inspired to read the novel. Not sure I would have understood the book, had I not had the benefit of the visuals. I agree with you that “Sundays at Tiffany’s” was a bit creepy – I didn’t like that one at all! Glad you enjoyed listening to it – but I think you’ll enjoy watching Eric Bana for two hours much more LOL!

    • I agree. I think this is a case in which the audio enhanced the novel. I really loved the book. I haven’t read it in print though. I simply dismiss or refuse to think about the creepiness of an older guy appearing naked in a field to a young girl . . .

      I haven’t seen the movie.

    • Neat :-) I read this a while back and it wasn’t my favorite but there were some good qualities. certainly the love story is very romantic.:-)

    • I’ve heard the movie is very disappointing compared to the book, but I haven’t watched it yet so who knows?

      I loved this book when I read it 6 years ago. I always feel that it is hard to explain what it was exactly that I loved about this book. The story doesn’t sound interesting at all if you have to summarize it, but like you said, it captivated me from the start.

    • have not seen the movie..and I may be the last person in BlogLand who has not read this one. It is one of those books I am almost afraid to read because so, so many people loved it and I fear I will get all hyped up and then not like it.

    • My mom loaned me this a long time ago, but I haven’t read it yet. I did see the movie, but I’m not sure that was the best place to start! It looks like I’m going to like it when I finally pick it.

    • Jo

      I love, love, love this book! I wasn’t all that impressed by the movie (not too surprising, really) mainly because I didn’t like Rachel McAdams as Clare.

      If you haven’t read Possession (which Niffenneger quotes at one point), you should. It’s lovely as well!

    • I was so thrilled to read this line:

      “I didn’t expect to be so totally captivated by this love story that criss-crosses back and forth through time and ages.”

      I feel the same way – this is one of my favorite books of all time (I read the print version). I read it many years ago now and never expected it to become so big. The movie is actually pretty good – they did s surprisingly good job of capturing the book. You should see it.

      Have you read her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry? It was OK but I didn’t love it. Oddly enough – since as you say Chicago plays such a huge role in TTW, her second novel is not only set in London but written in British English (with odd phrases like “chocolate digestive biscuits”). The author has lived in both places but I found it odd she could so completely change her tone.

      Glad you loved it!!


    • This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed it so much! I’m from Chicago (born and raised) and I wanted you to know that you’re right about the Chicago references being fantastic. They helped me connect even MORE with Clare and Henry than I would have otherwise. Love the book, and love your review.

    • I just loved loved loved this book! It was so well done and you I got so drawn into their story and Niffenegger makes all of it work so well and seem .. well, so possible!

    • I read this with my book club years ago and we all really liked it. I still haven’t seen the movie but I wouldn’t mind. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much!

    • I’ve been on the fence, but you’ve made me want to give this one a try.

    • I think I’m the only person in AMerica who has not read this (aside from a few folks above me in the comment thread) – but I will!

    • [...] not a reader of fantasy or science fiction (I know, I know, I was as surprised as you that I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife; I still credit the audiobook edition with my enjoyment of the novel), and this love story [...]

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