Angie's Reviews > The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
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Apr 23, 09

Read in January, 2004

** spoiler alert ** I typed my opinion of this book into a comment years ago. I decided to turn it into an actual review. I could go on and on about what I didn't like about this book, but I'll narrow it down to my top five:

1. I found all of the characters in the book to be shallow, pretentious, and one-dimensional. I especially couldn't stand Henry.
2. The book was vulgar. What's with the overuse of the word "prick" in serious, supposedly romantic situations? I think this word should only be used as an expletive or a joke. (And there's not much intentional humor in this book.) Using "prick" in a serious way, in reference to an actual penis in a romantic scene, is gross and low class. The character Clare also used the "c" word in describing the pain she felt after delivering her long-awaited child. Who does that?
3. The ending was ridiculously melodramatic. When the feet were amputated, my reaction was, "Oh, come on!" I even said this aloud and nearly threw the book across the room. Then, the whole killed-by-a-deer-hunter thing seemed like something out of a spoof or a satire. Should I laugh? Should I be sad? This brought on another, "Oh, come on!"
4. I was not able to suspend disbelief. When I read this years ago, I talked it over extensively with two friends, both of whom loved the book, and neither one could explain to me how certain events were possible. The book did not follow its own rules of time travel, or rather, the rules shifted based on what was convenient for the plot.
5. The book was about twice as long as it needed to be. Had Niffeneger simply skipped over the shopping lists, detailed street directions that had no relevance later in the book, and boring play-by-plays at the pool table, she would have had a much more readable book.

Heaven help us that someone has purchased the movie rights!

Here a few quotes I found in the Amazon.com book reviews that say it much better than I have above:
Trite (and creepy) Romance ~review by Gail Collins
"Henry's relationship with the grownup Clare reads like a bad romance novel. Henry is portrayed as a dangerous. He enjoys beating up men and treats women callously. Clare is the sweet virgin who wins his heart. The couple has insatiable and fabulous sex that, unfortunately for the reader, comes across as more crude than loving or exciting.

Henry as bad boy didn't ring true to me. The role seems imposed on him to fit the romance novel formula. Most of the time he seems the passive librarian. I found him more sympathetic than Clare, who never grows beyond self-absorption. A typical Clare act is to have sex with her best friend's husband without giving the friend's feelings a single thought. Clare's art career feels tacked on. She doesn't struggle with her art or use it to rise above Henry's absences. Her role in life is to wait for him. Is this love or sick dependency?"


How can anyone like this pretentious self-satisfied drivel? ~review by Marc A. Weiner
"This must be one of the most pretentious novels I've ever read. All of the characters act and sound like refugees from an episode of Friends or Seinfeld, a group of oh-so-cool, oh-so-well-educated, exquisitely cultured, insouciant and--wow, really neat!--yuppies in their mid-thirties who all speak with the same voice, quote an endless string of Rilke poems, make references to Foucault and Heidegger, name-drop and cite passages from their favorite belletristic authors, listen to everything under the sun from the trendiest, coolest punk music to Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, eat in the newest ethnic restaurants (Thai seems to be a special favorite), and exhibit inexhaustible sexual energy while igniting overwhelming desire in all those around them. The novel reads like a compilation of cultural clichés."


A good idea for a book destroyed by pretentious writing ~review by E. Graham
"I was also thoroughly annoyed at the 'name dropping' style of writing that was sometimes rewarded with an explanation, but most often not. I can't remember all of the characters names offhand, but they'll enter the story with something like, 'Fred walked in and startled me.' Yeah, he startled me too. Who the hell is Fred? We find out several pages later, 'Fred Flintstone was a childhood friend'. Thanks, coulda used that information ten minutes ago.

But this isn't limited to people. The characters ponder going to Ann Sather's for something to eat. Neighbor? Relative? Last night's one-night-stand who happens to make great waffles? Two pages later it's revealed that it's a Swedish restaurant. They talk of the CSO - only later can the acronym be explained as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As a Chicago native I recognized these references, but they grated on me nonetheless.

Same with descriptions. 'He looked like Joe Schmoe.' Great. That helps. Not 'his hair was slicked back in that Joe Schmoe style' or something like that - at least then I would start to form a mental picture. To use a simile with a subculture or hipster reference and no context is pretentious and condescending. 'He answered the phone while standing in front of a Maholy-Nagy poster'. How many people are familiar with the Chicago Bauhaus movement and would get this reference? What does it add to the story?"

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Elizabeth (last edited Dec 11, 2007 05:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elizabeth Were you seriously up at 3 in the morning last night? I thought maybe you were, as I was wide awake for about 20 minutes around 4:45 and checked email and had one come in, but you wrote this in the middle of the night too, didn't you? Huh. : )

OK. When my book club did this we talked about all of this save for the deer hunting thing, which we all bought. I don't know how I overcame it all, because when you write it out like this, I totally agree... but I overcame it all. My friend Sabrina did not. She couldn't get past the language to even consider inconsistencies. I read it right after Gracie was born though so I must have been too exhausted to try and make sure everything lined up. I'm with Lain--it's still one of my favorites : )


Angie Nope it was just 1:00 a.m. my time, which is plenty late for me. GoodReads sucks me in and I can't get out! I love hearing different perspectives about books...and finding out who agrees with my opinions and who doesn't. (On amazon.com, only 116 of the 5,000+ reviewers agreed with me; most people rate this book quite high.) This process is helping me figure out my own tastes and preferences and be open to opposing views. And with each of my goodreads friends, it seems there are some books we agree on and some we don't. It's fun to see where our tastes converge.


Lain I hope you are happy. I now hate the book.

Just kidding!

Good points that you make... I must have blocked out the language, as gratuitous swearing usually @#$$$@ me off. ;)

I guess I am with Elizabeth... I loved other parts of it so much that it overroad the negatives.


Maryc Cody I loved this book. I tend to skim over expletives so I didn't really notice the prick or the 'c' word. If it had been in a movie, I would have been upset by it.
I loved the book because it was so different from what I usually read. I had never considered the problems one might encounter with time traveling. It fascinated me. I am sorry you didn't enjoy it but for me, the wow factor was pretty high.


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