Danielle's Reviews > The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
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's review
Jan 18, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: fiction
Read in October, 2007

Why can't there be a negative star rating? I hated, hated this book. And yes, I did finish it. All way-too-many pages of it. But, in my defense it was (foolishly) the only book I brought with me when I was hospitalized for 24 hours after wisdom tooth surgery, and when your options are daytime soaps or this wretched book...well, at least I got to read the ending and conclude definitively that it wasn't worth it. Okay, now that I've gotten a bit of a rant out, let me be a little more organized about my dislikes:
1. The sex. More accurately, the sex after sex after sex, in graphic detail (not pornographic detail, granted, but WAY more than I wanted to picture), at all sorts of different ages. Wow. Yeah, I just hated that. If it serves a purpose to the plot, fine, include it, but don't give me every single move. I just don't need to know that.
2. The plot was convoluted. I can say this fairly because I read it in practically one sitting, and while I was able to keep things straight, it would have served the book better to not attempt to take in so many sub-plots and minutia.
3. Okay, I will admit that for having a sci-fi premise, the concept of time travel as outlined here was at least moderately believable. What I didn't like was that it wasn't especially original (anyone seen Journeyman?) yet had the pretension that it was.
4. The whole crux of the novel was the great love story between Henry and Claire. Yet, as a reader I'm much more interested and moved by two NICE people ending up together, and staying together, than two people I just don't like that much. Let's face it, Henry is not a great guy. And there's that whole poor-rich-girl thing going on with Claire. I just wasn't feeling it.
Okay, all of that said, I really don't recommend this book to anyone. I realize there are a lot of people that like it (I know; I checked the reviews expecting to be completely vindicated, but alas, it seems I'm in the minority) but those people who like it apparently enjoy a different class of book than I do. There are so many great works out there, why waste your time with this?
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01/30/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 2-51)

Frankenfeld You read this entire book in 24 hours? I thought I was a fast reader but apparently not!

I join the masses. I did like this book but agree with you that it was convoluted and also, a great many scenes were too drawn-out.

As for being in the minority...I loathed -- LOATHED -- Wicked. I thought it totally sucked. I couldn't connect to anything about it and a lot of the character's motives left me totally baffled. I still don't get the elephant scene, either. I guess I just ain't intellectual enough. But I am the minority with Wicked because everyone else apparently loved it.

message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

You're absolutely right- this book SUCKS! I HATED the damn thing! Why is it so popular?

Michael People like this book for many reasons, of course. One of which might be that, despite all it's problems (and they are many - in fact, you mentioned most of them...), there is something indefinable and lovely about it. And, all protests to the contrary, there's no such thing as a "good" book. Just books, and those who like or dislike them.

To me, the funniest thing about your review (beside the fact I agreed with most of it, while still liking the book), is what you say about being moved by two "nice" people getting together. How do you define "nice"? What about Claire wasn't nice? I can see why you wouldn't define Henry as such; but Claire? Just because she was a rich girl, etc.?

It could just be me, but I, apparently, don't know any nice people. While I did find there wasn't much character development, I actually enjoyed we were reading about two people who were a bit more "real" than in other books based on romance. These two looked like people I know (well, except for the rich part), with all their complexities, their "warts" etc., and still found love. Perhaps you think only "nice" people "deserve" love?

message 48: by Danielle (last edited Jun 30, 2009 10:29PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Danielle No, I didn't mean 'nice' in the sense of perfect, I meant nice as in 'likable.' Of course, some imperfections make a person more likable, not less, because you know they're human. If a character were truly perfect, they would be one-dimensional. The problem with Henry and Claire is that their imperfections were the kind that would make me hate them in real life, not relate to them. My main contention with Claire was not her family's wealth, but how everything she said in the book had this undercurrent of "whine, whine, whine." Okay, you're future husband/lover/husband keeps disappearing on you. That sucks. You can't stay pregnant. No fun. We get that. But what would have made Claire likable, or better yet, admirable, would be facing these challenges with strength, instead of pitying herself. I don't know, I just found it hard to sympathize with her when she just came across sounding like a spoiled brat. And as far as only "nice" people deserving love, I definitely think Henry and Claire deserved each other. But that isn't a good thing.

Danielle PS- You're kind of right about the definition of a "good" book, in the sense that there's no accounting for taste. At the same time, though, if what you say were true, book critics would be out of a job, and Literature professors would have nothing to teach. Clearly there are certain standards that qualify a good book from a poor one.

Michael I found the way Niffenegger chose to write Claire made Claire more "real" to me than if she had handled the situations with strength. I don't think she'd ever learned to be strong, because she'd always had a "guiding force" in her life - Henry, of course - and hadn't really grown up, in a sense. Henry hadn't had any guiding force until he met Claire, when she became - through what she learned from his future self - his guiding force. A sort of time-travel loop thing, not exactly a paradox, but close.

So they were both children, and didn't do a lot more growing up throughout the rest of the book. Which made them feel like real people to me. They weren't idealized people like we normally get in most books. In my opinion, The Time-Travelers Wife ends up, then, being a story of two selfish, messed-up people who, in addition to their being selfish and messed up, have to deal with this time-travel issue.

As far as your point about there having to be standards which exist or there wouldn't be book critics or lit profs...I personally think the critics and professors exist simply to justify our belief in standards. Kind of a chicken-or-the-egg thing. We want to believe a book we like is better than other books (probably because we're insecure). It's easier to convince others of the worth of something like Joyce's Ulysses if there are hundreds of scholarly article asserting as much, especially when you consider most of us wouldn't give that book a second glance if it wasn't considered the work of a "genius".

As for "there's no accounting for taste," I'm in the Picasso camp on that one - which is not a very popular camp, I'll admit. He said something like he didn't have time for taste. I like that.

message 45: by Jill (last edited Mar 22, 2011 04:17AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jill Well, you completely validated my opinion of the book so thank you! Yes, so many people have loved it, I was very excited to read it and I really did not like it at all. You are totally right about Clare's 'poor little rich girl' thing and the sex scenes - yes sometimes sex scenes are necessary and fine but if I had to read 'cock' or 'cunt' one more time in the context of their lovemaking I was going to be sick. If you can work a sex scene into a story involving likable and loving people, great but if it sounds like forced, 7th grade porn please leave it out. And why didn't they just adopt a child? Ugh just thinking about Clare moping around in her studio makes me mad. I need to go find a good book to read!

message 44: by Shari (new)

Shari I haven't read this book, but when I joined goodreads (recently) it was offered as one of the books to put on my to-read shelf; so I did. Now I'm back and reconsidering some of those decisions...I did not read this book, but I did read the synopsis and the comments...and several people seemed to notice that this author was "inspired" by other works-specifically something called "The Journeyman"?. The commonalities I noticed (just by reading the synopsis) was that this is not the first book I've heard of where there is a woman named Clare who meets a time traveling man...Diana Gabaldon, anyone? In fact, it's been such a long time since I read the Gabaldon trilogy that I thought perhaps I was just confused about the title and the author's name.

Holly To each their own - I loved the book but wouldn't expect everyone to just because I did. There are many books that got great reviews that I just didn't "get."

But just to be clear, The Time Traveler's Wife was published in 2003, and the show "Journeyman" didn't come out until 2007.

Danielle Right, I knew the order, I'm just saying the idea isn't especially original (since others have used it in the past, and afterward without looking like they were ripping off this book) but the explanation of time travel in this book just had the tone of, "This is the solution no one has ever thought of before!" But really, it's not that creative, and I don't think very well explained.

Holly Danielle wrote: "Right, I knew the order, I'm just saying the idea isn't especially original (since others have used it in the past, and afterward without looking like they were ripping off this book) but the expla..."

You know what they say, "It's all been done before."

Michael I think I'm lost as to the solution you reference. What are you talking about? I don't follow what is "not that creative, and [not:] very well explained" in The Time Traveler's Wife.

There are only a few ways to do time travel. This story follows the "you can't change the future by going to the past" version of time travel. There are those stories which allow for changes in the timeline, and then there are those sort of in between (e.g., King's Dark Tower series). How does The Time Traveler's Wife purport to offer something new? Does something have to be new to be worth reading?

Many people have pointed out the similarities between this and Journeyman. Holly (above) pointed out the two were separated by four years or so. In my reading I have found far fewer time travel books which do not allow for timeline changes, so I thought this book - while of course not completely original - offered something different, which was enough to keep me interested.

I'm hoping the movie will cut out the endless description. That's what I hated most about the book. Pages and pages of Dickensian bread-buttering lists. At least in a movie when they show a woman making paper she won't be describing the minutiae ad nauseam. Some writers need to learn the idea they should "kill their darlings." The author is clearly in love with the process of paper-making.

Mackenzie Well firstly, I think you expect too much of a book. I could name 5-10 things I didnt like about most books I've read but that doesnt mean it wasnt well written or worth my time reading.

1. This is a LOVE story. Your comments about the endless sex are silly. Are you trying to tell me that if you met the man of your dreams that you wouldnt want him in bed all the time as well? Personally I found the sex scenes rather light. I dont live for the hot sex scene in a book of course but for someone who is SO in love it seemed kind of weak and she probably could have shown more passion at times.

2. Okay so you are upset... that a book about time travel is too convoluted? Really? Henry experiences all parts of his life at once and you are wondering why the plot was so convoluted? Perhaps it is because that's how it was supposed to be. Rather enjoyable as I didn't sit there thinking this is sooo predictable.

Im going to skip 3 cause that was an airhead moment.

4. What! Okay... I'm sorry but I know very few genuinely "nice" people in the real world. Ugly, stupid and annoying people tend to find love as well. Clare is also far from a "poor-rich girl" routine. I don't think there was ever a point where her family being rich brought her trouble or her need to complain. Also I'm sorry but if you endured the lifestyle Henry had to endure throughout his life, I think you would drink, do drugs and have a slutty girlfriend just to feel like a human being.

Overall I found this book refreshing mostly because it wasnt a fluffy love story in which the sweet girl that gets hurt in love finds a new lover and has to learn to trust again. It was far from my favorite novel but it was an enjoyable read. Seeing all these people giving negative reviews either missed the whole premise of the novel or they can not appreciate just how much effort a book like this took.

Thank you for the book Audrey!

Michael Mackenzie said "Seeing all these people giving negative reviews either missed the whole premise of the novel or they can not appreciate just how much effort a book like this took."

Hear, hear! Some people, it seems, want books like this (speculative fiction, I guess) to be what they are without actually being what they are. That's where calling the plot convoluted comes from, I think. I agree it's pretty counter-intuitive.

Allowing an author not to be perfect is a prerequisite for enjoying literature, in my opinion. Some people, however, don't want to like certain books, so they do nit-pick about sex and words like "cunt". I personally like my books a little spicy!

message 37: by Deb (last edited Aug 12, 2009 04:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deb Roby I am glad that I am still able to enjoy a book like when I was a kid--without having to dissect it to find what is not "correct"! I am a Lit teacher with a Masters, but I refuse to tear a book apart. I don't like some books I read, but not because I picked apart the author and the text, but for whatever reason, the book just did not appeal to me. And yes, I loved TTTW!

D1wata Your review is hilarious! I enjoyed it more than book

message 35: by Ginny (last edited Oct 03, 2009 06:34AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Ginny I agree with every part of your review.
I was really going crazy with all the sex happening in this book.it really really bothered me that some people on this planet can specify love only in those three letters.I hate it.and it was so much in this book that even now I feel nausea thinking about it,really.

message 34: by Emma (new) - rated it 1 star

Emma Oh dear GOD, I thought it was the only one who hated this book so much.

Miss Bookiverse YES! I just finished and reviews this book and couldn't agree more!

Linda Thank you for your review. I find the people who have to criticize a review they don't agree with rather amusing. It's a review -- if you liked the book, you're going to disagree. Why not leave it at that vs. trying to imply that the reviewer "missed the whole premise" of the book? That seems rather pretentious and disrespectful of differing opinions. If you loved this book, say so in your own review.

Danielle Thanks, Linda. From now on I'm just going to copy and paste your comment, rather than trying to "answer" dissenting opinions.

Merri I just dont see your point with the sex. Yes there was sex, and yes there was a lot of it, but it was in no way graphic. I also find that Henry and Claire being imperfect makes them more real, and for me made them more likable but that is just me.

Lyndsay I agree with you 100%. I was wanting to read this book because it got such good reviews and I was excited to read it before the movie release. I just kept waiting for it to get better and have a climactic point and it never really did. It was very sexually descriptive, and some of the language they used in the book left me asking "was that necessary?" It was terrible!

message 28: by Rmh (new) - rated it 1 star

Rmh I don't find her explanation (if by 'explanation' we mean 'randomly choosing any aspect of nature that the majority of people don't know much about' and throwing it on the table) of time travel at all satisfactory.

Genetic disorders manifest in the body of the person who has them, but they don't warp the fabric of space and time. To her premise, I say "bollocks".

Azadeh What I can no way forgive about this author is the way the book is filled with unnecessary grandiloquence, name dropping, slamming other authors work, and talking stupidly about genetic science to give the bullshit novel a credible ground!
The author seems very ignorant to me, because the biggest ignorance, as said in my culture, is the very fact that you are unaware of your ignorance, and even worst, you think you know a lot!

message 26: by Gwen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gwen Haaland Good review Danielle. I was expecting so much more from this book.

message 25: by Gwen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gwen Haaland Totally agree with you Danielle, Jill and Lyndsay (above.)
So I am also in the minority.
I have appreciated other time travel books, but this one seemed lame. I just could not buy into this book.

PS I appreciated Linda's comment above.

message 24: by Mary (new) - rated it 1 star

Mary Daniels I completely agree with every point of your review. Thanks for having the guts to go against a highly devoted crowd of fans.

Almak I have to agree with Danielle's review. I came to similar conclusions myself after reading the novel. I just couldn't get past the unnecessary amount of vulgarities that were consistently used throughout the book. It fully detracted value from the story.

message 22: by Kara (new)

Kara Here's the thing; when two people are in love, I don't expect them to describe their passionate lovemaking by such vulgur terms as "cunt" and "cock," not unless they're in a rap video anyway. That was my biggest issue with the sex scenes; they didn't feel very loving.

Also, Clare was such an unlikeable character; she is a spoiled, rich girl who never has to work or become an independent individual. Instead, she gets married young and then spends her entire life pining over a man who is never around. Even after he dies, she spends the last half of her life waiting for him because he told her he'd see her one last time.

So thanks for your honest review, I completely agree with you. For the people who enjoyed this book, that's great! If we all liked every book, how boring the literary world would be. It's interesting to see the differences in opinion.

message 21: by Emily (new) - rated it 1 star

Emily Great comments, I completely agree.

message 20: by Dorsi (new) - rated it 1 star

Dorsi I don't know which would be more painful, wisdom tooth surgery or this book. I think, if given the choice, I'd opt for the surgery. This book was that bad. I am still trying to figure out why everyone loved this book. I am honestly stumped.

message 19: by Roz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Roz "nice" is such an ambiguous word.

message 18: by Zach (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zach Walters This book was published in 2003, while journeyman was done in 2007. Think you've got it the wrong way round.

message 17: by Alex (new) - added it

Alex Sharrock Well done! i couldnt even finish the book ! :/

message 16: by Stellmaria (last edited Aug 31, 2011 07:09PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Stellmaria Great review, it falls it a category of heinously convoluted and needlessly annoying fiction that unfortunately always sells. The suckage is in direct correlation to how popular the book is. But at least when the minions pant "you gotta read this book!" I can safely say already did and leave it at that. I just wish I hadn't bothered with it, because it left me regretting giving it a chance. Okay, to be perfectly honest it left me as enraged and disgusted as a crazed Vancouver rioter. They should use Time Traveler's Wife to torture terrorists. Ugh.

Stellmaria Zach wrote: "This book was published in 2003, while journeyman was done in 2007. Think you've got it the wrong way round."

Time Traveler's Wife rips off HG Well's Time Machine, and definately rips off City on the Edge of Forever.

message 14: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Why is it that so many of the One-star rater's always start off their criticism with a disclaimer of "why I had to read this book" or "why I was somehow forced to plod through a book I hated from the beginning". As soon as I read the disclaimer I typically stop reading the review as, to me, it's just a sorry excuse for justifying an overly negative review. ELSE, the average intelligent person asks himself: "why did this person read a book they hated so much". The One-Star’ers know this, hence the prefaced justification. After all, they feel it necessary to tell you they read the whole book to lend credence to their criticisms.

But to be fair, the justifications for "Why I was forced/cajoled/imprisoned/hospitalized and thereby HAD NO CHOICE but to read this book from start to finish” are, if nothing else, entertaining. lol. With ONE exception I've never given a book a one-star rating as...wait for it...wait for it...If the book does not engage me within the first 1/4 of it, then I PUT THE BOOK DOWN and go onto another book. Hence I cannot then go and give a book a one-star rating as I feel I don't have that right since I didn't read the whole thing.
I think I'm going to compile a numbered list of "Why I just had to read this book though I hated it/despised it/suffered emotional and/or physical ailments from even opening the first page, BUT YET continued to read it from beginning to end" excuses. That way you one-star'ers could simply save yourself several lines of preface in a hopeless attempt to justify why you had to finish a book you supposedly despised. You could just list your excuse by numbers...so simple!

Rachel Absolutely wonderful work! I am still stuck in the book. Kudos to the amazing novel:) To those of you who are fussing about the language used in the sex scenes- you should drop those same exact words the next time you are making love or having sex....you would be amazed what a little dirty talk will do for your love life! I read to learn and enrich my life. I TOTALLY agree with Alex- I would not waste my valuable time on a book that I feel I would one star. I feel for you poor people who actually do this!!! Oh wait. Hehe, these are the same people that are complaining about language. Now it makes since. Take my advice, try talking dirty, it's terribly fun!! That part was one of things about the book that brought the love story home to me. Now I have to get my head out of this book and back to the game of life. Oh one more thing, I never pondered time travel as this book portrays it AMAZING.

message 12: by Eric (new) - rated it 1 star

Eric Fan I agree with your assessment although I've yet to finish the book. At some point it became a chore to read and I just don't feel like picking it up anymore. The concept of the book is actually pretty ace but the writing is prosaic and the characters shallow and annoying.

message 11: by Molly (new)

Molly My book club picked TTTW as our next book. We got a wad of them on clearance at the used book store (note to self...). I got to page 42 and stopped. In the past I have forced myself to finish books out of some convoluted respect to the author crap. Now, my time is more valuable.

I read fiction to be entertained. Not enjoying it. Done. Toodles and buh-bye...I had never heard a bad word a out this book so I was feeling a little dejected. (Like I am the only female I know who loathes the movie gone with the wind...I need to turn in my southern lady card).

So, thank you for posting a "bad" review. I don't feel so alone. ;)

message 10: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn Lee I really didn't like either Clare or Henry either. Clare is so docile, boring and one-dimensional, and Henry's a... Erm, well, kind of a j*ck*ss. I just couldn't connect emotionally with the characters. And you're right, all the sex was a bit gratuitous. I also thought at some points, too much information; do I really need this image?!

message 9: by Bea (new) - rated it 1 star

Bea Great review! Spot on!

Beth Your review made me laugh out loud, because of your reference to the wisdom tooth surgery. Although I did not dislike this book so strongly as you did, I certainly wouldn't have gotten through it, had I not been stranded in a situation comparable to yours: I was stuck at the INS, waiting in one interminable queue after another, being treated like a potential felon just for daring to accompany somebody in need of a visa... and with nothing to occupy my mind but this slow, insipid, sad, sad story! It's amazing what we will do to distract ourselves.

message 7: by Deb (new) - rated it 2 stars

Deb Thank you Linda!!!! I happened to agree with the review of this book. that does not mean I was too stupid to comprehend the "premise" of the book. I understood it perfectly. I just happened not to like it! I wish there was a like button for a comment as well as the original review.)

Caitlin Cook Totally agree.

message 5: by Briana (new)

Briana Coman Dude I couldn't even finish this book it was so awful. And I was so excited to read it! You r not alone, I hate it too

message 4: by Ivy-Mabel (new)

Ivy-Mabel Fling I managed twenty pages. It is a wonder it didn't make your wisdom teeth grow back.

message 3: by Projectssweat (new)

Projectssweat good

message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee I didn't like either of the characters either the first time I attempted, and eventually abandoned, the novel. I came back to it some years later altogether in a different mindset and gave the characters another chance. I adored it. It makes sense why Henry is the way he is, after scenes like the one depicting his constant return to the time of his mothers death, seeing versions of himself hiding, powerless to do anything. Or Claire feeling whether Henry is the one for her, or is she a victim of time travel. I loved it. You don't have to like the characters in a book you love, but it helps if you at least understand them. Henry meeting his daughter was also a beautiful moment.

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