Book Review: The Time Travelers Wife

Boor Review: The Time Travelers Wife, By:  Audrey Niffenegger

I rated this book four out of Five stars for ingenuity, and thinking about the plot when I wasn’t reading the book.

One of my very best friends loaned me this book ages ago, but it has been lingering on my nightstand forever. I think having seen the film already, I felt less inclined to read the book. It became the perfect summer read for me. I took it with me on a long family road trip. 

What I enjoyed about the book:
1) The characters. I didn’t encounter any character in the book that I did not find interesting or easy to like. They were all layered, complicated, endearing, and flawed.
2) The prose. It’s rare to encounter a modern book with well-balanced artistic prose that do not make the work come across as trying to hard or transform the work into self indulgent, poetic, silliness. The prose worked in this book. I loved the descriptions of Clare at work as an artist. I felt like I was sitting beside Clare watching her create. The author’s descriptions of winter were genuine. You are brought into each moment with the characters using descriptions of weather, food, and clothing.
3) The ingenuity. Sure time travel in a book is not new, but the authors take on it was different. The rules around how the characters could or could not control time travel, and how this impacted Henry’s outlook and his life, was fun and inventive.

What I did not like about the book:
1) Character voices. The book is written in first person point of view. The reader moves back and forth between Clare and Henry. There were times when I was not sure who the narrator was because Henry and Clare use the same voice. They describe things the same way. There were times I just could not imagine a man talking the way Henry did. Maybe I live a sheltered life, but I have never heard a woman refer to her own vagina as her cunt. Not a word I expected cute little catholic Clare to use.
2) Consistent use of prose. The author has the ability to eloquently describe things, however when it is time to get down and dirty she looses her flare. Talking about sex, a brutal death, or miscarriage-the language transforms into fifth grade fluency. Henry sounded like he took pleasure in telling Clare about his mother’s death. Like he was trying to shock her. He relates it in a brutal and grotesque way I found strange for someone talking about the death of someone dear to them. Clare’s descriptions of her miscarriages are not medically accurate. This surprised me considering the author consulted librarians and paper makers in her research for the book. Each and every sex scene (if and when sex is ever described) is anxiously mentioned. I found this strange considering Henry was supposed to be a cad before he meets Clare. Shouldn’t his point of view revel in sex with rich descriptions? Nope, Henry can describe the texture of a book better than his wifes skin, and he sounds like virgin catholic girl Clare whenever he talks about sex.
3) The author telling and not showing Henry’s former bad boy self. I kept wondering about Ingrid and her relevance in the book. I think her presence was intended to highlight Henry’s womanizing bad boy history. I never once believed Henry had this former persona, but the scenes with Ingrid do not achieve this. I wanted physical proof, but after awhile it becomes one of those, “because the author says so” kind of things.

The plot of the book is close to what you will or maybe have already seen in the film. For the most part the book is a relaxing and interesting read.