WARNING: Plot Spoilers
On a whim, I picked up The Time Traveler’s Wife at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Normally, this is not a book I would seek out but expanding my reading horizons is the whole idea behind this project so I took a chance.
To sum up my feelings about this book in one word, meh.
I heard the book made it to the big screen but since I moved to Europe, I have only seen one movie and The Time Traveler’s Wife was not it. Incidentally, the author, Audrey Niffenegger, denied seeing the movie as well because she believed the script was written with 13 year old girls as the target audience.
Honestly, that would make sense. A few nitpicky issues with the book, such as when Clare gives birth, she is shaved immediately prior to being wheeled into labor and delivery. Shaving before birth happened with my mother’s generation but is not standard practice today, in Clare’s reality.
Also, there was exactly one historical event documented in the novel, September 11th. It felt cheap, like the politicians that break out the rhetoric just before they bash their opponents. I remember September 11th well. I also remember the day Reagan was shot. The day the Berlin Wall fell. There are a lot of important historical days to remember, not just September 11, 2001 yet it was the only one mentioned.
The plot of the book is a mix of love story and time travel told from the point of view of the main characters, Clare and Henry. The time traveler, Henry, suffers from a genetic condition that causes him to shift through time without warning, arriving at different periods of time, naked and starving. Since the world isn’t so accommodating to randomly materializing naked guys, Henry learns to pick pockets and locks, lie and steal, and generally conduct himself like a sly criminal. The details of the time travel are well documented in The Time Traveler’s Wife, it is the love story that ultimately is problematic.
The bigger issue that dooms the book is the love story between Clare and Henry. Clare first meets Henry when she is 6 after Henry time travels to the meadow near Clare’s childhood home. She accepts Henry’s crazy explanation for his presence and helps him with his food and clothing situations. Through the years, Henry materializes in this same meadow and starts a big brother-esque relationship with Clare – albeit a weird big brother who appears naked periodically. She hides him in her basement and brings him inappropriate food and her father’s castoff clothing.
In Henry’s reality, he doesn’t meet Clare until he is 28. She is 6 years younger and a college student. Confusing, no? Clare holds knowledge of her relationship with Henry that hasn’t happened to him yet and as time goes on, Henry travels to the future and learns what lies ahead of Clare. It is destiny, or so the author would have us believe.
Perhaps the book is better suited for teenage girls who still think that one cannot live without the great love in their life. I am a little beyond the teenage girl star-crossed lover stage, probably obvious by the Berlin Wall reference.
Audrey Niffenegger’s birthday is June 13th. Other writers she shares a birthday with include, poet William Yates, Gonzalo Torrente Ballester (Don Juan), and Marcel Theroux (The Confessions of Mycroft Holmes: a paper chase), saving me from reading any of their works.