Morgan's Reviews > The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
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Jul 14, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: fantastical, time-travel, non-linear
Read in July, 2007

Rating this was really hard, because I really liked it (really, really liked it) but I have such qualms with the ending, which could very possibly be a testament to Niffenegger's writing, I'm not sure. Anyway.

There were several things I wanted to talk about while I was reading it, more or less having to do with the notion of time-travel in the book. Obviously, there's always the immediate connection between Henry DeTamble and Billy Pilgrim, both of which are unstuck in time, Henry because of a bizarre disorder and Billy because of an existential break-down possibly hightened by Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome (I believe that's what it's "technically" called, but don't quote me) (this is also a literary theory I find to be too easy of an excuse). But also I found parallels between TTW and Octavia Butler's "Kindred," the story of a black woman pulled back through time by one of her ancestors, a white slaveholder, to the period before the Civil War. The interesting thing I found about both of these are the link between Dana and Rufus (in "Kindred") that defies time and space, and an almost identical link between Henry and young Clare as an agenda to look at the concept of "soul mates." This then creates an ontological question concerning the nature of free-will and destiny, as Niffenegger herself states numerous times that Henry believes in free-will to a point, in that he's free to do whatever or so he believes, but because he is so immeshed in time what happens between him and Clare is more destiny: they are free to do what they will, but they'll always end up where they are meant to be type thing.

Another aspect that struck me was the idea of time being a biological construct, which was like "holy shit rock on!" Because time itself is little more than our perception of change and cause-and-effect, and the physical concept of space-time is nonlinear, that all time happens right now and it will always happen at any given moment, not so much circular as it is ever-present. But the notion that time itself can be a flux in our biological make-up was STUNNING. If I were a little more awake, maybe I could expound a little more about why that interested me so much.

(But to that effect, it did bother me a little that Niffenegger told her story more or less linearally, despite the constant jumping back and forth that Henry undergoes. I almost wish the whole thing was like that, with very little linear telling [which of course would be problematic with Clare's perception of events; hmmm . . .:]).

IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK AND YOU PLAN ON READING IT, PLEASE STOP READING THIS REVIEW HERE! I DON'T WANT TO RUIN THE ENDING FOR YOU!

This was one of the saddest books I've ever read, aside from "Where the Red Fern Grows," but what I didn't like was that there was no real time to devote to being sad and crying over Henry's fate/destiny/end because the story kept going, no moment to allow the reader a bit of catharsis. And this probably wouldn't have been so bad if Henry hadn't lost his feet and could do nothing else but wait for his final moment. I felt that Henry was such a dynamic character and that he would have been one of those types of people who burn out instead of fade away, if he were a real person, but in the narrative he's not given that chance. When he flashes back to that morning at the Meadow I wanted him to be running when he's shot, not simply appearing, getting shot, and returning to the New Year's party. And the story kept going after! Which, granted, it is actually more of Clare's story (she is, of course, the time-traveler's wife and gets the first and final words of the story), and this does illuminate Henry's ever-present being in time and space. And then maybe he's not so much fading away as he is always existing. I don't know. I have mixed feelings about it.
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04/07/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Deborah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deborah I agree with you - I still had to give it a five because it was so engrossing, but the ending left me feeling very disappointed. I don't want to say more because I don't want to spoil it, but grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


Alya I felt the same way about henry's death. I didn't have time to "mourn" him - and to tell you the truth I really wanted to! I got emotionally attached to the guy and after reading the first quarter of the book, I started to develop pity and genuine compassion for this guy who must feel really exhausted from all that time-travel. And having to end up in places and situations no one would ever want.

When I first read that he lost his legs, I was, like, WHAT?? NO WAY! This can't possibly be the end because its ridiculous. But when I got to the part where he dies, i found out the significance of that event.


Melisa i agree as well. i also would have liked more on clare... i recognize that waiting is a major (if not the major) theme of the book, but i wanted her to have a life while waiting for that last visit.
but ultimately the story was simply beautiful.


message 4: by Jason (new)

Jason can you expound more on the biology of time?


message 5: by Kirstin (last edited Jul 21, 2009 08:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirstin I agree with Melisa. It's not Henry's fate that's so depressing - he was doomed from the start and it's amazing that he lasted as long as he did - it's Clare's. Waiting is one thing. Lifelong depression to the point that you can't even be happy for your daughter's sake is another. After Clare's extreme determination to have a child, I felt she ended up robbing Alba of both her mother and father. I loved the book, but Clare's ending was absolutely terrible.


Greg Exactly my thoughts. Take the message of the first majority of the book ("use the time you have to love"), then chuck it out the window when Henry starts to deteriorate. It's fine to read about the character getting repeatedly beaten by life, but what makes it bad is that she stopped writing the love in their relationship at the same time. The characters didn't do anything to cope, they just got into fights and resigned themselves to fate instead. Dealing with "old age" physical problems is not a joy, but if you have a caring partner, things are much easer.


Elisabeth I felt he had to die once he lost his legs because he couldn't survive time travel without them. I felt that was a foreshadowing of what was to come (his immanent death). I also was surprised at how he died. I liked how the author alluded to it in the middle of the book, then "wham!" he dies in the end and that put two pieces of the puzzle together nicely, and it made that middle part more significant.


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