Edition cover

  • ISBN10: 015602943X
  • ISBN13: 9780156029438
  • Paperback
  • 546 pages
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

Reviewed by Dona Patrick

Rating: 5 out of 5

  • Posted 14 years ago
  • Viewed 8303 times, 7 comments
  • Average user rating: (4.1/5)

breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly sad

As a longtime time-travel book fan I have read many books with some sort of time-travel. The first book I read that dealt with this subject was called The Thyme Garden by Edward Eager where children went into a garden and crushed thyme between their fingers and traveled elsewhere in time. I recently re-read it, and discovered the author wrote a number of other time-travel books for children. While not really "time travel", I loved the Narnia series where the children traveled to a different place. Another book I enjoyed was Andre Norton's Dragon Magic in which people were able to time travel where they wanted. Secretly, my favorite romantic movie is "Somewhere in Time" and I have even written a short story or two involving time-travel.

I purchased The Time Traveler's Wife a few months ago after hearing about it and thinking the title and cover of the book were intriguing. I suggested it as a possible read for my book group, but another book was chosen. Then an online group to which I belong suggested reading it, and I joined in. My real life book group is still not interested. Pity.

Henry first meets Clare at the Newberry Library in Chicago when Henry is 28 and Clare is 20. However Clare first meets Henry when she is 6 and he is 36. Henry has a disorder that he suspects is a bit like a seizure disorder, except instead of having a seizure, he is transported backwards and forwards in time, ending up naked where ever he lands.

In this book Henry may not change events, although he is forced to witness some tragedies time and time again, he is always helpless to change the outcome.

This book is breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly sad. However it is uplifting and I am envious of the love these two characters have for each other. The author writes it in such a way that the time-travel part of the story is believable.

I had a slightly difficult time with the ending, not the very ending, but what happened to Henry in the year before the book ended. The book was like a pleasant ride on a mild roller coaster, and suddenly it became, for a while, a jarring walk through an evil carnival fun house.

One last thing I liked about the book was the fact that many place names were real. I recently spoke to someone who said that she even went to some of the concerts mentioned in the book.

It is hard to believe that this is Audrey Niffenegger's first book. It is nearly perfect in every detail. I read an interview with the author that suggested she wrote the book in a different order than in which it was published.

"I got the title first, and played around with it for quite a long time, slowly evolving the characters in my head. I wrote the end before anything else, and then began to write scenes as they occurred to me. TTW was written in a completely different order than the one it finally took. I understood early on that it would be organized in three sections, and that the basic unit was the scene, not the chapter. It has a rather chaotic feel to it, especially at the beginning, and that is deliberate-there is a slow piecing together, a gradual accumulation of story, that mimics the experience of the characters. I made a lot of notes about the characters. I had two timelines to help me stay organized, but no outline of the plot.

(Audrey Niffenegger interviewed by Mark Flanagan. Full interview available here.)

I sincerely hope this will not be Niffenegger's last novel.

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danchamp says:

Great review, it might help me to persuade my wife to read it (I loved it too).

She thinks it's going to be too sad - I tell her it's "happy sad" but I think you say it better.

#1 Posted 14 years ago

cedarwaxwing (this is my review) says:

Hey, thanks. I actually wrote it a couple of years ago, but wanted to add a review to see how this worked. Oh, the blockquote doesn't seem to work. I will add it to the bug list in that group.

#2 Posted 14 years ago

manolo says:


I read the Time Traveller's wife about a year ago. Yes, it is a love story, and as such it works. But it is that sort of fantasy fiction that I just can not connect to. Still, I would recommend it to anyone who had some time to kill (no play on words intended). In fact I did give it to my wife and she really did not like it. I did find the dissertation on punk music interesting. I even own a Phish tee shirt, though I did not buy it and have never heard the band.

To be honest, weird is the best word for summing up this book. Ok, weird, and romantic, but still weird. Quite hard to follow at times, and to remember who knew what... for example, Claire's dad had seen Henry naked before he met him with clothes on. Strange... from start, (that meeting in the library that left Claire breathless with desire and anticipation, and Henry simply puzzled,) to finish.


#3 Posted 14 years ago

cedarwaxwing (this is my review) says:

Wow. This proves that it depends on the person for a book to "take". I loved this book and all of its quirks. I just asked my husband what he'd respond - and he said he liked the setting, but the rest was kind of weird. He compared it to "Girlfriend in a Coma" which is not what I'd compare it to.

Bottom line - I like weird I suppose. Twin Peaks, Pee Wee Herman. etc.

#4 Posted 14 years ago

heylucy says:

I totally agree with your review, I absolutely loved this book, and that is not something I say about many books. I felt emotionally drained when I finished the last page and the characters stayed with me for a long time afterward. I, too, hope to read more from Audrey Niffenegger. I think that is what I found most disappointing about the way The Thirteenth Tale ended, I was very invested in the characters, and then felt as though I was just cut off from them, their stories all finished quickly and neatly wrapped up.

#5 Posted 14 years ago

fred says:

I truly enjoyed this book. I can't remember all of it, but I did enjoy the mix of romance and fantasy; pretty much if it has time travel in it, I like it.

#6 Posted 13 years ago

Sundance says:

I liked the individuality of this book, and the plot kept me going, but it was full of inconsistencies which irritated me. Enjoyable, but not one of my favourites.

#7 Posted 13 years ago

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