The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Reviewed by Renée Bosman, Reference Librarian for Government and Public Affairs and Reference Collection Coordinator
Yes, The Time Traveler’s Wife is about time travel. And at its center is the love story of Henry, the charismatic time-traveling librarian, and his wife Clare. Yet to categorize this strange, lovely novel as fantasy or romance would be somewhat misleading. It is certainly not a love story of the classic boy-meets-girl variety. Indeed, Henry DeTamble first meets Clare when she is six, and he is nearly middle-aged, swept back in time during one of his involuntary time traveling episodes. Years later (or earlier?), after many travels to Clare’s childhood, they meet again. As Clare’s life progresses in a (normal) linear fashion and Henry flip-flops through time, the narrative leads one to question the ideas of causality, coincidence, destiny, and fate. It all appears to be a Möbius strip, as Clare tells Henry when she finally meets his present-day self; does knowing about the future then cause one to change it?
Despite the time travel episodes and flashbacks, Niffenegger does an excellent job of moving the narrative forward with enough semblance of chronology. Passages are clearly labeled with the dates and the characters’ ages; while initially confusing, one soon learns how to read the organization of the story within the time travel framework. Indeed, much of the beauty of this novel is from the use of this compelling, bizarre context to explore the very ordinary, human themes of love, marriage, and death. Despite some first novel flaws (too long, too much), The Time Traveler’s Wife is a compelling, haunting read worth picking up before the movie arrives in cinemas.