My initial impression review on Goodreads of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was this: “This book is elegant, odd, beautiful, heartbreaking, and mournful all at once.” And it is truly all of these things. At times, I couldn’t put this book down. And other times, I was bored, wondering when things would pick up again. I don’t need a book to be action-packed from start to finish, but I do need it to have somewhat of a purpose.
Clare and Henry are far from a normal couple. Maybe it’s because their respective memories of their first meeting are different. And not just because of the frailty of human memory. But rather, because Henry is a time traveler. He cannot control when or where he travels, and when he does travel, his clothes do not come with him. Because of Henry’s unusual…activities…Clare meets Henry when she is 6 and he is 36, but Henry does not meet Clare until she is twenty and he is twenty-eight. Confused yet? You’re not alone.
The Time Traveler’s Wife follows the lives of Henry and Clare as they fight the odds and time itself to be together. You watch Clare grow up through her encounters with the man who appears in her meadow from time to time. You learn of Henry’s struggles as he tries to stop himself from traveling and stay in the present. You watch them fall in love. You see their fight to be a “normal” couple. And you see it all through this intimate look into their lives.
There were many things about The Time Traveler’s Wife that were mesmerizing. I enjoyed trying to keep Henry’s timeline straight in my head and trying to figure which of his actions affected what in the timeline. This book is mysterious, elegant, and fascinating. It is heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and confusing.
There were many things I did not like about this book. At times, the pace seemed too slow. I am all for catching glimpses of the ordinary in a story. We miss the ordinary far too much. And many important scenes took place in the ordinary. But sometimes, there was too much of the day-to-day that didn’t affect the overarching story. That may seem harsh when discussing the story of someone’s life, but it’s honest. When you read a life story, you don’t need to know all of the mundane details of every minute of every day. Many times, it felt like Niffenegger was trying to fill pages she really didn’t need to fill. The book is long enough that she could have left out the parts that were unnecessary and still had a substantial book.
Additionally, there was far too much explicitly sexual content. I have read numerous books that involved a romantic relationship (married, dating, etc.), and seen numerous treatments of the physical aspect of romance. There are classy ways of writing it, and less classy ways. Niffenegger took the less classy route. I would not recommend someone who is unmarried or struggles with lust read this book.
Other content issues include Henry’s recreational drug use and alcoholism. This book also deals with death on a very personal level. While this is not necessarily a content “issue,” reading about death in such detail and as frequently as it comes up in The Time Traveler’s Wife may be difficult for some readers to handle.
Overall, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger gets 3.5/5 stars (rounded up to four stars on Goodreads).