Book Reviews

Book Review: The Time Traveller’s Wife

Time-travel…it’s something that has fascinated me for a long time. I am a big fan of the Back to the Future trilogy. So I was looking forward to reading this book by Audrey Niffenegger.

So what’s this book about? Well, it’s about a man, Henry, who has a genetic condition that results in him time-travelling. The kind of time-travelling he does is a bit different from those in the know of Back to the Future. Usually, under times of stress, he will find that he has time-travelled either into his past or his future. When he does time-travel, anything that is not part of his body remains in the original spot. So yes, that means clothes. When he is transported to the past or future, he is naked and has to try to get clothes for himself. In the process, he has learnt to steal or to break and enter places.

During this process, he meets his wife, Clare, as a child. He tells this 7-year old who believes him that they meet in the future and know each other in the future. He later does tell her that they are married.

The book basically follows the life of Henry and Clare — Henry as a child, Henry as an adult. Clare as a child and Clare as an adult.

Now for the review part.

What did I like about the book?

  • It was a different kind of book. I don’t read science-fiction and I wouldn’t classify this as sci-fi even though the theme is one. I would say the genre is drama
  • It’s engaging and easy to read provided you don’t get into the logistics of time travel and wonder how the past Henry and present Henry can meet without people thinking something seriously wrong is going on here
  • It keeps you interested

What I did not like:

  • The biggest thing I didn’t like about the book was its message on destiny. The book basically says that your life is mapped out for you and there is nothing you can do to change it. I found myself questioning that as I do not believe it. I lean more towards the ‘Back to the Future’ style where you can create your own future by things you do now. On the other hand in the book, it’s like no matter what you do the end result is written and that’s that. I found myself questioning why Clare couldn’t choose to be with someone other than Henry? There was a period in her life when he wasn’t even present. If she did not ‘know’ the future, would she have chosen differently? I mean, how much of what he told her, influenced her decision to want to find him and be with him? How much of that then, in turn, influence his present self to be with Clare when she told him what his future self had told her (Sorry if that’s confusing…but I hope you get the drift). So yeah, I believe we create our future and don’t like the idea of it being mapped out for us. And that was my biggest gripe with this book.
  • The other bit that I didn’t like too much was the relationship between Clare as a child with Henry from the future in his 30s. I do not give a damn about age differences in love provided both parties are consenting adults. Even though there is nothing sexual mentioned, it’s still a bit on the creepy side. Picture this: a 7-year-old child seeing a naked 30-year-old man. It probably has to do with my profession of working with kids and adolescents, but I did not like those sections especially because the teenage Clare talks about wanting him to kiss her etc and Henry thinking “no I can’t do this” even though there are descriptions of how he thinks she has changed physically when she hits puberty. In some weird way, it seems to be condoning paedophilia.

I guess, all in all, if you just want a light read, this is good. But it’d be better not to think too much about it or think too deeply. Because then, you will probably have the same ‘meh’ feeling I did. It was good but not great.

My rating:

Until next time,


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  • Archana
    28 September 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Hmmm I haven’t read the book, but wasn’t this recently made into a movie that’s out in the theatres now? And based on your review the 30yr and 7yr old bit kinda makes me uncomfortable too – – even if nothing technically happened.

    I was thinking the movie would be worth watching since I’ve never read the book and heard pretty decent reviews…but now I don’t know so much. What do you think, would you give the movie a hit or miss?

  • MilesPerHour
    28 September 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Great review. I know my gf is reading this book atm. I will be interested in her take on it as well.

  • Sidthegnomenator
    28 September 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I totally agree with you about this book. I read it a couple of years ago having had it recommended by a lot of people and I was quite disappointed with it. I found it quite inconsequential. There didn’t seem to be an interesting, deeper theme to deal with.

    I found the relationship between the characters very VERY disturbing. I found it awful that Clare was unable to experience a normal adolescence because she already knew who her husband was going to be.

    Like you, I thought it was okay if you aren’t intersested in looking too deep into a book. but I actually enjoy looking deep into books and I found this one too light on the deeper meaning.

    Have you read the Book Thief? I just read it for the second time and I can recommend a re-read: there were deep layers the first time around but you start to see even deeper meaning the second time around, I think. Plus, you can savour that amazing language when you aren’t so curious about what’s on the next page that you rush (which is what I did).

  • Solilo
    28 September 2009 at 5:49 pm

    I liked the book but I agree with some of the points like “The other bit that I didn’t like too much was the relationship between Clare as a child with Henry from the future in his 30s.”

    I found it creepy too.

    Now I went with lot of expectations for the movie but it was a HUGE DISASTER. I didn’t like it at all. Shoddy script and zilch chemistry between the leads.

  • indianhomemaker
    29 September 2009 at 2:43 am

    I totally agree with ‘I do not give a damn about age differences in love provided both parties are consenting adults. Even though there is nothing sexual mentioned, it’s still a bit on the creepy side‘ Read another review that finds this objectionable too. It’s very creepy.
    And destiny controlling our lives bit also is too passive or negative for my taste.

  • Psych Babbler
    29 September 2009 at 9:22 am

    @ Archana: Check out Solilo’s comment re the movie…apparently a huge disaster. I generally don’t like movies that are based on books…they tend to disappoint me. I gave up on Harry Potter movies after the 3rd.

    @ MPH: Thanks! Let’s see what your g/f says

    @ Sid: I know!!! There was no deeper theme and I kept waiting for one! 😛 Nearing the end I figured unless there was a major twist, it probably wasn’t going to have any depth to it. I haven’t read the Book Thief but have seen it around. Will put it on my next book-to-buy list. Thanks!

    @ Solilo: I wouldn’t have watched the movie…don’t have faith in books made into movies. I think they do tend to disappoint. At least for me anyway.

    @ IHM: I did read the review…you mean ‘Tears and Dreams’, I guess. I told her I wouldn’t read it until I finished the book and then went back and read it and commented. She hated the book though. I was merely disappointed. 😛

  • Smita
    29 September 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I had loved the book!!!

    In fact I saw the 30 something Harry meeting Clare quite romantic. He had the luck to see the love of his life as a kid as well!!!

    When I had started the book I had questioned a lot and then somebody advised me ‘don’t apply logic just enjoy the book’ and thereon I loved the book!!!

  • tearsndreams
    2 October 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I knew you would have a problem with the destiny part.Your blog does tell us that much about you 🙂
    But you missed the fidelity aspect so I guess that didn’t bother you much. Would you be okay if when you turn 50 your better half goes back in time and sleeps with your younger, prettier self. Am I the only one who is bothered by this and thinks its still cheating, its still seeing a different person who you can never be? Dating your future while ignoring the present(like Claire did a few times), I can still forgive and is kinda flattering…but past which is gone forever…I would divorce if the husband ever tried 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    2 October 2009 at 11:06 pm

    @ Smita: Yeah I guess if I hadn’t been logical it may have been better…

    @ Tearsndreams: No I didn’t get bothered with the whole fidelity thing. Found it a bit weird no doubt but didn’t look at it as cheating. 🙂 But I can see what you mean…it just didn’t occur to me that way when I was reading it.