Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife

25Aug09

Contrary to popular opinion, I thought this book just wasn’t all that. I know many people who have this book on their “best of” lists, and it’s supposed to be amazing. And there are parts of it which are… specially the premise:

Henry suffers from a genetic disorder, which allows him to time-travel, albeit the time-traveling isn’t done at his will, but can happen anytime, with no heads up whatsoever. So, at the age of thirty-six, he goes back in time to meet Clare. the love of his life, who is six, but, in real terms, she is only eight years younger than him!

So, as I was saying, the premise in itself is interesting, and gripping. However, this book has disregarded the concept of space-time continuum completely – almost as though such a thing didn’t exist, and time-traveling decided the course of events, as opposed to nature, fate, or life itself.

For example, Henry tells little Clare that he is her future husband. So, all her life, Clare is only seeking one man, as she doesn’t see any point in dating other guys, for she already knows who she’s going to end up with. So, if Henry hadn’t gone back in time to tell Clare about their love, would Clare have even given him a second look when she met him in the library?

And, why would someone tell his future wife that they’ll be together when she’s a small easily impressionable child? Shouldn’t some things just be left to chance? Personally speaking, I would have hated it if someone would have told me that in my pre-adolescent and adolescent days, for, it probably would’ve ended up trivializing a lot.

Second, I really didn’t understand what the whole deal with shedding clothes and arriving naked in the non-real time zone was about? Was Henry moving so fast that the clothes didn’t have a chance to keep up with him? Was that really that necessary a part of the book? Because, at times, there were some semi-pedophiliac moments.

And, how could Henry have told the number of people he told his ‘secret’, and not have it turn into a gigantic deal with the media? How did he manage to escape becoming a part of a scientific experiment? Gomez hated him. Dr. Kendrick would have had his own interests at heart, and a case like Henry’s would have ensured him some well-deserved limelight.

I know, it’s supposed to be a romantic sci-fi book, but the sci-fi bit isn’t really, as it’s too romanticized, and the romance is just dull. I couldn’t relate to either of the protagonists (Clare or Henry), and I just couldn’t fathom what made them tick. I know I’m in the minority here, but, this book just wasn’t for me. Add to it that there are two narrators, and the book is constantly going back and forth in time, with some repetitions, and that’s enough to confuse the living daylights out of me. In fact, I thought that the editors should’ve stripped at least 200 pages from the book.

Maybe I just didn’t get the book, or maybe, I was expecting too much, or, maybe I was reading the book in a pragmatic frame of mind. I don’t know. I know some of you loved this book, so I’d be interested to hear what made the book tick for you? And what made it really phenomenal, because as things stand, I honestly think I missed out on something fundamental, which is what ruined the experience for me.

Rating: 1

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20 Responses to “Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife”

  1. I TOTALLY was not a huge fan of this book. Especially near the ending, without giving anything away it has something to do with Henry’s feet, or lack there of? WHAT?! I didn’t get it. But I know many many people who absolutely LOVED it, so what do I know ! It was so refreshing reading your honest review about it!

    • Thank you! I found the whole bit about his feet completely pointless as well – kept thinking, ‘this really isn’t adding much to the book’.

      Yeah, I’d barely read anything negative about the book, so figured it would be worth reading – specially as so many people say it’s in their all-time favorites list. Guess one man’s meat and all that…

      Glad to see someone else out there who didn’t really enjoy it either!

  2. I wasn’t that impressed with the book either. Although I admit I liked the story (the details you mentioned were a little bothersome but I could deal with them), my issue was more on the writing. I liked the idea of it more than the actual book, mostly because the writing didn’t deliver, felt forced, but I was okay with it. Just not getting on my top reads, that’s for sure.

    • Yep, I agree – the premise in itself is interesting. It’s just that either the writing needs to be lyrical and beautiful, or the story thought-provoking and totally captivating – TTTW fell in neither category, in my opinion.

      Again, good to see I’m not isolated with the opinions I had…

  3. I did predict that you wouldn’t like it!

    I think you are analysing it all too closely. Time travel doesn’t really exist and so your criticisms about the space-time continuum don’t really come into play – the whole thing is made up, so the author can choose how she writes it.

    The whole book is a talking point, so you can spend hours discussing fate, time travel and all the other points you raise. I think the fact that it caused you to question so many things proves the quality of the book. I loved it! Any book which is so thought provoking is going to end up on my favourite list.

    I think I am beginning to understand your taste in books though!

    • Jackie, I’m going to start taking your word as the gospel from now on, and run every book I intend to read by you!!

      Well, my whole gripe with the space-time continuum thing might be based on watching Back To The Future about once a week for three years of my life (mild exaggeration, but the trilogy is one of my all-time favorites), so I’ll give you that!

      Fair enough – I don’t know: I just saw the questions and gaps to the stories, or incomplete writing. I’m probably being harsh, because I didn’t enjoy the book much.

      • LOL! I was going to tell you to avoid My Sister’s Keeper, but then I spotted that you loved it – now I’m very confused! I don’t think I understand your taste at all!

        I’m not a big fan of science fiction normally, so don’t worry about the S-T continum. I know my physics though, so know when things are getting beyond possibility. I love your honesty though.

  4. lol, I do have a special place for medical fiction to be honest, so I wouldn’t take that to mean anything! I was quite indifferent to the only other Picoult I read – I can’t even remember what it was called, so… I think that says it all.

  5. I also watched the Back to the Future trilogy on loop for a chunk of my childhood! Every time I watch them now I can taste cheese and tomato sandwiches because that was one of the few things that I ate during that time (along with Chicken supernoodles; my appetite is far more eclectic now and I am continually eating different things and hate monotony in my diet…)

    Anyway, I loved the book and very excited about Audrey Niffenegger’s forthcoming second book. I can see why you had problems with it and I really enjoyed what you had to say.

    • Haha, I mostly remember nutella with strawberries (as opposed to strawberries with nutella) and popcorn. Strawberries and nutella was my primary diet through university as well…. I’m much better now! But seriously – strawberries and nutella is the one thing alone that makes life worth living (I actually contemplated calling my blog strawberries and nutella, but decided against it as it’s not a cooking/recipe blog, and I don’t talk about strawberries or nutella that much!).

      Thank you – I’m probably going to skip her next book though, but I’m happy for you, and I really do hope you enjoy it. :)

  6. You’ve basically summed up why I tend not to read the really popular books right away. More often than not I can’t understand the reasons for all the hype and feel some level of disappointment. The Alchemist is another good example. After hearing all the rave reviews I eventually read it. It was good enough, but not GREAT. Eh, to each their own.

    I’m curious what I’ll think of tTT’s Wife when I possibly get to it.

    • Don’t even get me started on The Alchemist. How and why people rave about it is something I’ll never understand. That book put me off ‘popular paperbacks’ for a long time. Honestly! It annoyed me more than The Other Hand/Little Bee and The Time Traveler’s Wife put together, and that’s saying a lot!

      Am curious to see what you’ll have to say as well – hope you do enjoy it if and when you get down to it though, even it means contradicting me all the way!

  7. PS. I’m giving you a zombie chicken. It can be pecked up here.

    • Aww, thank you! It’s really cute… but, I can’t help but imagine what it would look like in reality, and I conjure up a compilation of all the Robot Chicken videos I’ve seen=)

  8. I am very grateful for your review! I picked up this book a year or so ago, but couldn’t get into it. I always feel a little bad about not finishing books or, as in this case, barely starting. But now I’m off the hook. No longer shall I feel slightly aggrieved to see it sitting on the shelf, unread. Adieu, Time Traveller’s Wife; time to find a new home…

    • Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy! In fact, if I were you, I wouldn’t even keep it sitting on the shelf. I’ve started to ReadItSwapIt books I don’t like, or donate them, just because I see it as wasted shelf-space. I never even dreamt of doing that earlier on, but ever since I don’t live with my parents, space is a bit of an issue, and I hate stuffing books/keeping them badly, so that was the most sensible solution! So yeah, find it a new home, and hopefully, the new owner will be able to love it, as so many other people have.

      I kept thinking the book would get better and better, but, in my opinion, it got worse and worse, and I did finish it (all the time, crossing my fingers, hoping something would click). So yeah – I should’ve done what you did, and shelved it early on!

      • My used bookstore has a great trade-in program, which I finally started using this week. I’m slowly making more room by cleaning out the books that have simply sat there for years and I don’t feel pulled to keep.

  9. Additional and off topic. Hugely amused by the avatars; Mish’s kitten looking intently down at my rat.

    • Sorry! My monster got in the way of the kitten and rat! That is hilarious though! I actually lol’d.

    • LoL. And Ryan looks to be picking his teeth from his last snack. Kinda hard to believe he’s now 4, a Big Boy, and far from an innocent kit.


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