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Book Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

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Title: The Time Traveler's Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher: Publisher: RHUK (23 July 2009)
Genre: Science Fiction/Romance
Price: Rs. 275 on Amazon
Pages: 624

What intrigued me the most about this book was its gist and the beautiful front cover. I bought this book years ago, on a whim, and it stayed on my shelf. It was only recently that I read a glowing review about this book and decided to read it. It is quite a fairly long book with minute font that makes the reading very exhausting, but I wanted to know what happens to the leads, so I persisted. When I was done with it, I did not know whether I liked the book or not. I had mixed feelings about it and after a few days I spent some time thinking about the book and its story. That is when I realized the true beauty of it.

This book uses alternating first-person perspectives and tells us the story of Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. Henry is an librarian and Clare is an artist who makes paper sculptures. Clare is eight years younger to Henry and has known Henry all her life. But when a 20-year-old Clare meets the 28-year-old Henry at the Newberry Library in 1991, he has never seen her before that day. Henry has a rare genetic disorder, which comes to be known as Chrono-Impairment, that causes him to involuntarily travel through time. Henry begins time traveling at the age of five, jumping forward and backward relative to his own timeline. When he leaves, where he goes, or how long his trips will last are all beyond his control. He just vanishes leaving behind his clothes and personal belongings and arrives naked at another timeline. Because of this, he amasses a number of survival skills including lock-picking, self-defense, and pick-pocketing.

After their first "natural" meeting at the library, Henry starts to travel to Clare's childhood and adolescence beginning in 1977, when she is six years old. He gives her a list of the dates he will appear and she writes them in a diary so she will remember to provide him with clothes and food when he arrives. During one such visit, he inadvertently reveals that they will be married in the future. Over time they develop a close relationship and fall in love. Clare continues to live in uncertainty about when Henry will disappear. Her whole life is spent in waiting for him to appear.

When Henry and Clare decide to have a baby, Clare has trouble bringing a pregnancy to term because of the genetic anomaly that Henry is passing on the fetus. The fetus is trying to time travel and hence is trying to breaking out of the safety of Clare's womb causing a miscarriage. After six such miscarriages, not wanting to cause Clare any more pain, Henry goes ahead and has a vasectomy. However, Clare gets pregnant soon enough and has a daughter, Alba. How does this happen? Has Henry passed on his disorder to Alba? Will Clare continue to wait for Henry every time he disappears? Will Clare and Henry ever have their perfect family?

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This book is the story of two individuals with love at the center. Although Henry and Clare are like no one I know in real life, the love story they share will keep you going. It is not an easy read for sure, with many pages being devoid of any dialogue. While the description of the scenes when Henry enters a different time line is beautifully told, too much of it makes the reading tiresome. Henry time travels many times in book, and his disappearance and appearance in another timeline is precisely documented. It is very important for the reader to remember the dates of each chapter for it to make sense. There is no continuity in the timeline of the stories in the consecutive chapters, so you really need to keep up with the dates mentioned in the beginning of every chapter. I actually wrote them down, mentioning in brief how the chapter started and ended to understand the tale better.

The multiple dates and time lines definitely makes this book hard to read, but once you are pulled into the lives of Henry and Clare, you will not want to get out of it until you know what happens to them. This is a story like none other and that is exactly what makes the book so special and beautiful. While their respective families and friends do get some precedence in some chapters, they only form the supporting cast. The book focuses equally on Henry and Clare, talking about both their childhoods and then their lives together. With so much uncertainty surrounding them, they survive solely on love. While the book has a poignant ending, there still is hope.

There is a movie based on this book starring Rachel McAdams as Clare and Eric Bana (WOW!) as Henry. I haven't watched it yet, but I will soon.

Verdict: You need to have a lot of patience to read this book. But if you persist, trust me, it sure is worth it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. I did come across the movie on Netflix quite a few times, but somehow couldn't bring myself to watch it. The story is intriguing, for sure. I mean, imagine your hubby vanishing to some other time, leaving you wondering if and when he will return!! I lose my patience waiting for my hubby when he goes out with his friends on weekends! :P
    Going by your review, I think I would rather watch the movie!

    Thank you, Soumya! <3

    1. The book is a tiring read, but the story sure is worth it. Watching the movie might make it easier, looks like :)

  2. I had borrowed this book from the library. Read few pages and somehow it did not speak to me and I returned it. Now I am wondering if I should get it on Kindle. Thanks for the review.

    1. The same thing happened to me, Rachna. I put this book down twice before I actually persisted and got to reading it until I finished it. While the story is good, the writing style and the heavy descriptions slow it down.

      Maybe a Kindle copy will be worth it.

  3. I read this book and I loved it. However I wished it was wrapped up in a better (more positive) manner. The possibilities were there, and yet... Sigh. Nonetheless, there are few books that made me feel as strongly as this one did. I am not a crier, and this book had me sobbing uncontrollably. So for that alone, to be able to evoke such strong emotion, I cannot really hate or dislike the book.

    You should check out the movie. I liked the climax in that one so much better. It stayed true to the story, but kept hope alive. You'll know what I mean when you see it.

    1. I liked the book for the same reasons you mentioned as well. Though it did make me cry like 'The Book Thief' did, this one did bring out strong emotions from me.

      I'll watch the movie soon, I need to see how it was made. Thank you, Shantala :)

  4. I haven't yet read this one but it's on my TBR. Now that I have read your review, I'm going to pick it up next. Sometimes the worth of a book is discovered when we persist, isn't it? :)

    1. You said it :)

      Do read this one, I have a feeling you will like it.


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