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