September 04, 2009

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

After loving the movie I just had to read the book, figuring that it was bound to be better than the movie. Many of the reviews I've read recently assured me it was so. Unfortunately I disagree.

Henry has a chromosomal disorder that causes him to travel through time uncontrollably. It is through his time traveling that he meets Clare. A much older Henry visits with Clare as a child frequently. A much younger Henry doesn't meet Clare until he is 28 and she is 20. This is the story of how their relationship works around his disappearances and the knowledge of the past and future as experienced differently by each of them.

First I'll state what I liked: it was well written, well imagined and well researched. There is a lot of knowledge of varying subjects from the art of paper making to Opera and classical music as well as 80s punk. There is French here and there. Politics, religion, art interpretation and appreciation. It is a knowledgeable piece of writing. It tries to discuss the tough topics of love and transcendence, past and future, history unfolding all at once instead of in a linear manner and free will. There are many components to this novel.

Now to what I didn't like: the details of the lives and relationships of Clare and Henry. Henry is not the wonderful guy that Clare falls in love with as a child. He's a druggie alcoholic with a reputation of being a cad to women, especially his girlfriend at the time that he meets Clare. Okay, so it's Clare that inspires the changes in Henry. I can get that; but Henry is not likable at that point and Clare doesn't care a whit. The language was another thing that bugged. It wasn't the cussing that bothered me but the amount of crudeness for crudeness sake that didn't seem to match the characters, in my opinion. Lastly, certain scenes such as the two teenaged Henrys caught in the bedroom and Henry and Clare attacking a high school boy who has beaten Clare when she wouldn't makeout with him and the thing with Gomez. These didn't seem to add anything to the story but filler. What terrible filler to a love story.

Last thing, and this is much more about personal taste, the title is uninspired. There are a plethora of someone's Wife and someone's Daughter on the market. These titles blend together into a novel stew that, frankly, makes me want to avoid them, which is sad because some of these books are quite good. Is it ironic that we call it a novel when it is in fact becoming cliche?

If there was more emphasis on the love story in the book as there was in the movie I would have been more forgiving of the little niggling details but there was so much more and some stuff just not important to furthering the storyline or making the characters more sympathetic. I was disappointed.

Two Word Review
Fell Short

Many book bloggers are reading Niffenegger's latest book Her Fearful Symmetry for the RIP4 Challenge. I am very curious about what it's about and if it will be as well loved as the Time Traveler's Wife. I'm a bit nervous about it too. What if it is more of the same? I will probably read it eventually because the breadth of knowledge contained in Wife was wonderful to read and the writing was high caliber. I look forward to reading some of your reviews.


bermudaonion said...

I saw the movie and thought it was good but not great - I didn't read your whole review because I do want to read the book now. Sorry to see you felt it fell short.

pussreboots said...

I would add "trite" to the short review version. I didn't especially like the novel but I did like The Three Incestuous Sisters very much. I will check out her latest book from the library one of these days.

Petunia said...

BermudaOnion-Glad you didn't read the rest of my review. I'd hate to taint it for you.

Puss-Good to know. I'll reserve the Sisters book. Thanks.

Jeane said...

Well, I did feel bothered by some of those scenes you mention, but overall I really liked the book. You've got me very anxious to see the flim now, though, if it's that much better!

Jenny said...

WHY are there so many Wife & Daughter books on the market? It drives me insane. I mean not to get up on my feminism soapbox, but really, it's a bit limiting to the women in question.

Her Fearful Symmetry is very different - I think the characters are actually less sympathetic in a lot of ways, but then you're not really asked to like them. Plus, ghosts!

Petunia said...

Jeane-I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Jenny-Glad to know I don't have to like characters that are not likable.:)

Zibilee said...

I just saw the movie yesterday, and I thought it was very different than the book. I also had some of the same issues you did with the book, particularly the Gomez problem, and I thought Henry was really unlikable. Some aspects of the book were great, while others really did nothing for me. I found it to be a bit of an uneven read. Great review.