For some reason I don’t quite understand, I have to read a book before I see the movie version. I say I don’t understand this because I am 99% of the time disappointed in the movie. I usually find them to be too short, missing crucial scenes, and just not on the same level. Because of this compulsion, I went and got The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The film previews made me want to read the book before I saw the movie. After reading the book, I don’t see how the movie could be much worse.
The Time Traveler’s Wife has an incredibly intriguing premise. Henry is a man with the ability to travel through time, an ability that he has no control over whatsoever. When Henry travels, he brings only himself, no clothes, tools, or money. He teaches himself to pick locks, steal, and fight to survive anywhere he may end up. This leaves Clare, the woman who loves him, alone, waiting and worrying. I couldn’t wait to get started. The book began well, Henry meets Clare for the first time when he is 28 and she is 20; however, she had met him when she was 6 and he was 38. From there it goes into scenes from Henry’s numerous travels to Clare’s life as a child and his own. Niffenegger does a good job at first of giving the reader bits of the whole story piece by piece, forcing the reader to pay attention and make connections on her own. While I like this type of read, I found as the book went on there wasn’t always a connection, or I couldn’t always figure out what the connection was. Also, the flow of the story didn’t always match the importance of the scenes. There were times, such as the Christmas scene and Henry’s first travel, that seemed to go on in great detail, but nothing overly important was going on. Then towards the end of the book, important scenes seemed rushed and underdeveloped. Clare is an artist, she devotes all her time to her art, but I don’t remember her creating anything but a pair of wings for Henry late in the book.
One of my biggest problems with the book was the love between Clare and Henry. I never understood why Clare loves Henry so much, other than she was told she would. There is nothing remarkable about him that would justify what she goes through to be with him. When she meets him as an adult, he has very few redeeming characteristics, and she is waiting for him to become the man she knew as a child. I didn’t really like Clare either. She was selfish and obsessed. She enjoyed being the martyr. She was borderline pathetic.
My other big problem with the book was the lack of character development in the minor characters. In the part where Henry goes to Clare’s parent’s home for Christmas, there is much attention on Clare’s brother Mark and his pregnant girlfriend Sharon and Clare’s sister Alicia. Here the reader gets a lot of information about Clare’s family dynamic and her siblings. It seemed like background information for future information and the mingling of multiple plot lines, but no. There is almost nothing in the rest of the book about Clare’s siblings. There are merely mentioned in passing, even when they happen to be in the same room as the characters. There were some interesting characters, such as Alba, that I would have loved to get to know better.
I can’t say that I hated the book, I found it interesting. Also, I won’t say “Don’t waste your time” because many people have really loved this book. I personally felt this book was a waste of a great idea. It had great potential, but was poorly executed. Hopefully Niffenegger will write another book, but with better plot and character development.