Sunday, November 5, 2017
#5 [2017/CBR9] "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger
I almost never re-read books, but my book club decided to read The Time Traveler's Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger. I had read it a long time before--at least ten years ago, probably more--and I decided I liked it enough that I should read it again.
The Time Traveler's Wife is a love story between Clare and Henry. Henry has some kind of chromosomal defect (you just accept it to make the story work) that makes him travel through time. He never knows where or when he is going to end up, but he pretty much stays within his lifetime. The chapters jump back and forth throughout Henry's life. Because of this, the book begins when Henry first meets Clare, when he is 28 and she is 20. However, because of the time traveling, Clare had first met an older Henry when she is only six, and he is in his late 30's. Thus, Clare has known Henry most of her life when the two first meet in real time, but she is still a stranger to him.
I thought Niffenegger did a very good job jumping through time, telling the story in a clear, interesting way that was both emotional and understandable. There is also some mystery and adventure as Henry is often in danger when he arrives, naked and unexpected, in unknown times and places. Clare and Henry must deal with him leaving without warning as well as other marital problems, including many heartbreaking miscarriages. I definitely bought into these two as a real couple that I cared about.
I first read this book when I was probably in my mid-twenties, and now I'm thirty-eight. I found that I now have a decidedly different perspective on this love story. I still enjoyed the story and found it eventually heartbreaking. However, in my younger years, I found the entire story wholly romantic. Reading it again now, I had more problems with how young Clare is when she first gets to know Henry. Clare is six years old when she first meets her future husband. At some point, he tells her they are going to end up together. They make out when she's sixteen, and Henry, as a forty-year-old man, sleeps with Clare when she's eighteen. Now, on the one hand, having your first sexual experience with an older, experienced man who loves you and already knows what you like, sounds just about perfect. On the other hand, there's a 30-40 year-old-man telling a young teenager that they're going to be married. It creeped me out much more the second time around. I found myself wishing that Clare could have had experiences and a life before she was tied to Henry.
Finally, there is a scene in the book where a boy Clare knows when she is in high school mistreats her. She tells Henry, and the two of them go over and terrorize him in retaliation. I did not remember it from the first time I read the book, and I found it both disturbing and unrealistic. I think I would have preferred that scene not be in the book, which is probably why I forgot it the first time around.
Anyway, even with the loss of my naive romanticism as I get older, I still really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who may have missed it the first time around.