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916 of 1,011 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, well-written, original
"The Time Traveler's Wife" is one of the most interesting, powerful books I've read in a long time. Audrey Niffenegger did a beautiful job taking some of the most complex ideas - time travel, marriage, love, children, friends, literary and artistic allusions, religion, death, drugs, childhood, growing, loss, and what it means to be human - and weaving them...
Published on September 4, 2003 by Diana

versus
411 of 488 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A good idea for a book destroyed by pretentious writing
I'm quite obviously in the minority here, particularly among non-fans: I found the narrative jumping around in time to be quite effective - the characters are often confused and surprised by non-linear time; this device gives us a taste of that. Nor was I bothered by the use of profanity, descriptions of sexuality, or the idea that an adult Henry maintains contact with...
Published on October 31, 2005 by E. Graham


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916 of 1,011 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, well-written, original, September 4, 2003
By 
Diana (Kansas, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"The Time Traveler's Wife" is one of the most interesting, powerful books I've read in a long time. Audrey Niffenegger did a beautiful job taking some of the most complex ideas - time travel, marriage, love, children, friends, literary and artistic allusions, religion, death, drugs, childhood, growing, loss, and what it means to be human - and weaving them together poetically and with amazing clarity. Her characters are wonderful, "real" people with strengths and flaws, and I really grew to adore them. Despite skipping around time at the same rate as Henry, the time traveler, the events are sequenced in such a way that you still witness each character's growth as a person, as well as discover many surprises along the way. Clare and Henry's story is one of the best love stories I've read in a very long time. This book also echoes important modern-day questions about the appropriateness of gene therapy, and what it means to be a human being. I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book.
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521 of 578 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and Compelling, November 16, 2003
By 
crazyforgems (Wellesley, MA United States) - See all my reviews
I admit: I am an easy touch when it comes to time-travel books. I have loved such diverse books with this theme as "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", "A Wrinkle in Time," and "Time and Again."
I was not disappointed by "The Time Traveler's Wife." The book both moved me and challenged me to think about a number of deeper issues in life (most notably, the true meaning of love in a romantic relationship).
The underlying story concerns Henry, a librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and Clare, his artist wife. Henry suffers from CDP (Chrono-Displacement Order) which whisks him from the present to another point of time (usually the past). One minute he may be in the stacks of the Newberry Library in 2003, the next minute he may find himself in a field (probably naked) in Michigan with his future wife as a child sometime in the early 1980's.
The author does an excellent job of sequencing the book. Even though Henry is shuttling back and forth in every chapter, she manages to move the plot forward. You do feel that you see Henry and Clare meeting, falling in love, starting a marriage and going through the stages of their lives. You do get to know their family and friends and see life happen to them.
However, I do feel that the author could have better developed all of her characters, particularly the supporting ones. I wanted to learn more about their close friends, Gomez and Charisse, and their troubled marriage. I felt that the landlady from Henry's child-whom he constantly visited in his time-traveling modes-was a sketch figure that could have been better developed. I wished that the author could have mined deeper into the inner feelings of Henry and Clare.
Still I would highly recommend this book to most readers. (If time-travel books bother you, this won't change your opinion.) It is a good, hard-to-put down read. And at the end, you're exhausted by all the travel!
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184 of 213 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written!, April 5, 2004
By 
Monica Morgan (Galloway, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
I stumbled across this book by mistake and hesitated to read it simply because it was 518 pages. To my surprise, I devoured this book in a few days and felt a pang of sadness when it was finished. The author crafts a story of something that is quite unbelievable and yet deftly makes it so very believable. I was hooked after the first chapter. Niffenegger managed to suck me in to this story so that I felt emotionally bound to the characters and their plight. It's a tragic story that weaves so much love/pain/joy/disappointment that it fairly bursts with emotion. Read it!
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411 of 488 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A good idea for a book destroyed by pretentious writing, October 31, 2005
By 
E. Graham (Hamburg, Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Time Traveler's Wife (Paperback)
I'm quite obviously in the minority here, particularly among non-fans: I found the narrative jumping around in time to be quite effective - the characters are often confused and surprised by non-linear time; this device gives us a taste of that. Nor was I bothered by the use of profanity, descriptions of sexuality, or the idea that an adult Henry maintains contact with Claire as a child.

It's what happens (or doesn't happen) in the space between that sets my teeth on edge. For example: we are forced to endure paragraph (after paragraph after paragraph) describing a game of pool. Not the interactions between characters during said pool game, no no. If you like to listen to golf on the radio, then you might find who-made-what-shot-in-which-pocket to be entertaining. I started to rage because I was wasting so much time reading this nonsense.

I was also thoroughly annoyed at the 'name dropping' style of writing that was sometimes rewarded with an explanation, but most often not. I can't remember all of the characters names offhand, but they'll enter the story with something like, 'Fred walked in and startled me.' Yeah, he startled me too. Who the hell is Fred? We find out several pages later, 'Fred Flintstone was a childhood friend'. Thanks, coulda used that information ten minutes ago.

But this isn't limited to people. The characters ponder going to Ann Sather's for something to eat. Neighbor? Relative? Last night's one-night-stand who happens to make great waffles? Two pages later it's revealed that it's a Swedish restaurant. They talk of the CSO - only later can the acronym be explained as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As a Chicago native I recognized these references, but they grated on me nonetheless.

Same with descriptions. 'He looked like Joe Schmoe.' Great. That helps. Not 'his hair was slicked back in that Joe Schmoe style' or something like that - at least then I would start to form a mental picture. To use a similie with a subculture or hipster reference and no context is pretentious and condescending. 'He answered the phone while standing in front of a Maholy-Nagy poster'. How many people are familiar with the Chicago Bauhaus movement and would get this reference? What does it add to the story?

I've gone on too long already with my rant and haven't even mentioned the street directions - complete with street names. I don't care which streets you take to get to the library, either tell me what happens along the way or just get there already.

The one highlight of the book (and yes, there is one), is the climactic scene we all know is coming. It was handled in a very touching and sensitive way that nearly brought me to tears. If only the rest of the book could be like these three pages, I wouldn't have to count it among the absolute worst books I've ever read.
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312 of 372 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lack of depth ruins an intriguing concept, January 28, 2005
This review is from: The Time Traveler's Wife (Paperback)
Unlike a lot of the other critics of this book, I didn't have a problem with the idea that a six-year-old Clare could fall in love with a forty-year-old Henry. I didn't have a problem with Henry breaking into places or all that other stuff either. But I had MANY problems with this book.

One of the main problems I have with this book is brilliantly exemplified on page 392 -- the date, September 11th, 2001:

"Henry says, 'Wake up, Clare.' I open my eyes. The television picture swerves around. A city street. A sky. A white skyscraper on fire. An airplane, toylike, slowly flies into the second white tower. Silent flames shoot up. Henry turns up the volume. 'Oh my God,' says the voice of the television. 'Oh my God.'"

... And then this event is never referred to ever again. The story does not take place in New York, nor does 9/11 bear any kind of noticeable emotional impact upon any of the characters in any way. And yet this paragraph is in the book anyway. Why? Good question -- I'd like to know too. But this is only the most typified example of the author's compulsive habit of putting in useless subplots and shallow tangents into the book for no particular reason at all. Examples of this are littered throughout the book. Henry's mother died when he was only a young boy -- this apparently had such a traumatic effect upon him that he is constantly involuntarily sent back to the moment of her death to witness it again -- Henry even goes so far as to say that it's almost as if all his time traveling REVOLVES around this one event. Okay, fine. I can accept that -- there's a lot of potential in an idea like that. But where does the author take this? Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. We are left with the knowledge that Harry sometimes relives his mother's death, that it bothers him especially on Christmas Eve, but otherwise it has no bearing upon the plot, and even more frighteningly, upon Henry himself. The fact of his mother's death is treated like trivia knowledge rather than emotional trauma. Another example is Gomez's apparent harbored affections for Clare. Not only does this information come ridiculously out of left field, but it is never developed. It's alluded to perhaps twice, and then Gomez comes on to Clare ONCE and then that's it, the story moves along as if it never happened, and it has no bearing upon anything.

This shallowness unfortunately mars the entire story, because it does not stop at the inclusion of shallowly developed subplots, but it goes into and ruins nearly every sphere of the book. Shallowly developed subplots is a problem, but shallowly developed characters is a much bigger one. The only characters who have any development at all are Henry and Clare, and neither of them have very much depth either. Clare is patient, kind, sexy, beautiful, loyal, artistic, rich, good in bed, etc. etc. As for the secondary characters, they were so flagrantly underdeveloped that I found myself mixing up names quite frequently, because there was nothing in the characters to make me care, nor to help me differentiate. Gomez was known to me as "that guy who smokes cigarettes." Ingrid was known as "the suicidal." Charisse was "the girl who dates the guy who smokes cigarettes." It's not that I'm a lazy reader -- it's that Audrey Niffenegger is a lazy writer -- she uses things like cigarette smoking to define a character, but then that's it, that's as far as the depth goes. Every character has the exact same vocabulary, the exact same voice -- I often felt the dialogues were the author writing out conversations with herself as she tried to sound witty. "Tell me Clare, why on earth would a lovely girl like you want to marry Henry?" "Because he's really, really good in bed." That's supposed to be a joke, and that's fine, but so much of the dialogue is written this way: trite, witty, one-liners, and they never say anything about the character involved, because every character speaks in the exact same way (unless you count Nell and Kimy, both of whom I considered to be just racial stereotypes).

I hate to take this further but then even the romance itself, the most important thing in the whole book, was yes, shallow. The quote mentioned above was supposed to be a joke, but the more the book went along, the more I began to suspect that the line was meant to be taken seriously. Clare first meets Henry when she is but a little girl, and throughout the course of her childhood and adolesence she sporadically meets this older Henry and falls in love with him. By the time they are married, it is surely meant to be. Now, I did not find this idea to be creepy as some did, I thought it had a lot of potential, but the writer never shows us WHY she would fall in love with a naked forty-year-old man -- it's almost as if Clare simply falls in love with Henry because he happens to show up every now and again, and it doesn't make any sense. Henry, before he meets Clare is a hard-edged, drug-using, womanizing punk, but then the moment he meets Clare in Chicago and she basically tells him "we're meant to be," he magically reforms himself, throws away his old life and habits, accepts what she tells him, falls in love overnight, but the reader is effectively shortchanged, almost as if the reader's meant to accept the romance on the grounds that it was meant to be, and that's that. Had the writer made the same effort to develop the romance as she did to put in countless unnecessarily graphic (and poorly written) sex scenes, then perhaps I'd feel differently.

Because of this shallowness, not only are the characters bland, not only is the romance unconvincing, but even the story itself runs itself around in circles over and over and over and over again. By the time the reader learns about the eventual fate of the characters, there is nothing left to do except wait for the author to get there already, and let me tell you, she takes her time.

I have nothing against long books, romance books, or time traveling sci-fi books. But I do have something against books that are sloppy, poorly edited, contrived, and worst of all, shallow. I wanted to like this book, and I had high hopes. To my disappointment, I left this book utterly unfulfilled.
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119 of 140 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Raises interesting questions, but fails to deliver answers, July 28, 2004
This review is from: The Time Traveler's Wife (Paperback)
This book gets two stars for being an engrossing page-turner with a surprising amount of coherence, considering the format of jumping back and forth between the past, present, and future. As others have summarized, The Time Traveler's Wife is a love story between a man who involuntarily is transported into the past and future, and the woman he loves. However, in addition to the romantic aspect, this novel raises some interesting questions regarding free will vs. predestination, actions and consequences. Henry, the Time Traveler of the title, interacts with many people from his present life (i.e. his wife, his parents, his friends, even himself), when they are younger, in many cases before they even meet Henry in real time. While this is a little hard to follow at first, Neffenegger does a nice job of tying it together quickly before it becomes too confusing.

What is interesting is that during these encounters, Henry makes a conscious effort to avoid saying or doing things that would change the course of the future. But by his very presence, he of course IS changing the course of the future. One such example has Clare as a younger girl drawing a picture of Henry. She begins to sign and date it, when Henry stops her: it's not signed, he tells her, it's on the wall of our house and there's no date. But in an exercise in free will, Clare decides that she WILL sign it. When Henry returns to his present and discovers the picture unsigned still, Clare explains that she erased it shortly after their past encounter, fearing something that small and insignificant could somehow have a catastrophic effect on their future.

That being said, the book has some scenes that drag on way too long (Christmas with Clare's parents, the Violent Femmes concert). The main characters are not all that likeable, and there's some really dumb, cheesy scenes (the worst is when Henry's colleagues, upon encountering two Henries for the first time, start to make jokes about Lois Lane and Clark Kent... huh?). Also, the book's denouement was disappointing: the final tragic ending - while not surprising, it's telegraphed throughout the book - ends up being a completely random, accidental occurrence. Ironic, yes, but not as fitting for a book that raises questions of actions and consequences. A more appropriate ending would have been if in his last visit with Ingrid, Henry receives his fatal blow from her instead. The final message of the book seems to veer away from the philosophical implications of time travel (a theme woven through the whole story), and instead focuses on the (in my opinion) lame notion of romantic love as mankind's highest ideal, "woman as salvation", you're destined to truly love only one person in this lifetime, etc. The very last scene with Clare having apparently pined her last 40 years away for Henry was utterly pathetic, and I found myself shedding not a tear for these star-crossed lovers. The one person I was really curious about, their child Alba, is not explained or accounted for past age 10. Is she cured? Does she die young? Where is she in the end of the book, aside from in Henry's past? Disappointing indeed.

Now all that aside, I have a few specific problems with the book that I just have to get off my chest. CAUTION: SPOILERS BELOW.

* Which Henry is it exactly that's waving to Clare with her dad & brother right after he gets shot, and when is that part explained?

* Why doesn't Clare mention Henry's shoulder-to-crew-cut hairstyle change the morning of their wedding day, when his hairstyle is noticed & mentioned by her everywhere else?

* If Clare and Henry know for a fact this disease is genetic and may be passed onto their children, how could they be so selfish and irresponsible as to try to conceive a baby who could then possibly time travel as an infant and appear anywhere else in time, helpless and naked, sure to die? (As a mother myself, this one really got to me)

* Why, if Henry can disappear any moment, does Clare ever let him be alone with Alba as a toddler anywhere, even if he doesn't drive?

* Why is it not explained how Henry has his feet again at 43 when he visits Clare, 82, if he lost them just after (or maybe just before) his 43rd birthday?

See, it's dumb things like this that are so unimportant, but if you notice them they can stick in your craw and then it's harder to pay attention to the plot. Anyway, thanks for reading this far, and let me know if you have answers to the above questions!
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137 of 163 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A rough draft novel?, July 20, 2005
By 
Avid Reader (Westminster, CO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Time Traveler's Wife (Paperback)
I'm not sure what book the other reviewers read: I found The Time Traveler's Wife to be dreadful. There is little character development, no depth of feeling, even the time travel "catch" was not well developed. I was never able to believe Henry and Clare were ever "in love"- in lust, perhaps, but there was no tenderness or maturity of feeling that ever emerged. The characters themselves remain static and flat regardless of their ages, despite a supposed 15-year (or 30-year, depending on which character's perspective) plot span. The anecdotes of an adult Henry lovingly mentoring the child Clare were never convincing because their relationship was so inherently shallow in adulthood. It's worth noting the author didn't bother with actually writing these scenes that should have shown new dimensions in Henry and Clare's relationship. Overall a very "sketchy" love story that shows very little insight into love or the human condition.

If you are reading this book from the fantasy/ science fiction angle, you will also be disappointed, as the plot leaves gaping holes throughout and offers neither the social commentary and allegory of science fiction nor the mythology of fantasy. Overall, this book has an interesting basic idea, but is very poorly executed. I recommend looking elsewhere.
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128 of 153 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why this book didn't work for me, June 19, 2005
By 
Ericka J. (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Time Traveler's Wife (Paperback)
I bought this book without having heard much about it. I am not attached to love stories or Sci-Fi Fantasy, so I wasn't expecting it to fulfill any expectations on those levels; I just found the subject matter different and intriguing.

I ended up having to work hard to get through it because I really felt like the writing and the characters were flat. I have read a couple of reviews below saying that they couldn't tell the difference between the narratives of the two main characters of the book and I had the same problem. I often had to check back to the beginning of the narrative to see who was talking. To me that is very poor character development, something that is intrinsic to a good book.

One main point that bothered me was the fact that when the characters are young in the book, 20-30, they seemed like they were much too old and serious for people that age. I feel like she glommed on the fact that the main characters and her friends all liked punk music as an attempt to make them seem younger, but no one I have ever known at these stages in their lives have acted like these characters and actually the Punk friends I had growing up would have hated them because they are from affluent backgrounds with painfully pseudo-intellectual attitudes.

To add to this, the ethnic characters in this book from black to Hispanic were overly stereotyped, something that I cannot stand, it made me think that the Author has very little experience or understanding of other cultures or races.

I also felt that a lot of the dialog was forced and didn't flow like a regular conversation, much of it seemed unnecessary and out of place.

I ended up not caring or being able to relate to any of the characters and regret purchasing this book.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One Trick Pony, June 2, 2007
By 
Middle-aged Professor (NY'er living in Ohio) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Time Traveler's Wife (Paperback)
This novel's conception of time travel is clever and original, and it carries you far enough into the book to hook you. The "time traveller" goes back and forth in his own life, for brief periods and outside of his control, creating interesting situations. For example, when he is 31 he can spend time with his wife when she was 6---so that he knows their future but she does not---and then meet her in "real time" when she is 20 and he is 28---so that she knows who he is (having met him many times as he time travelled back to her), but he does not know who she is (since all that time travelling was done by his older self).

The mental gymnastics necessary to follow these gyrations occupy the reader for a time, and the originality of their execution holds great promise for the story. Unfortunately, that promise in never fulfilled. In short, nothing really happens, and neither the writing nor the thinking is of the rare quality necessary to engage a reader with nothing happening.

About half way through, I discovered that really the whole story could have been written without the time travel device, and that story would have been very dull indeed. The time travel trick is the candy coating that allows one to take the medicine of the book, but to no particular end. The fascination of time travel (and the fascinating possibilities for the fiction writer) are largely ignored. While the time traveller alludes to popping up anywhere, all the episodes in the book involve time travelling around either himself or his wife, so it is more life out-of-order than anything else. The author focuses solely on the relationship between the time traveler and his wife (as she ranges from age six forward and he from about 21 forward, with all kinds of combinations), but there is no special payoff in romance, intrigue or insight in the conveying of that relationship.
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133 of 160 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars AWFUL, March 30, 2006
By 
A. Prasad (San Francisco, Ca, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Time Traveler's Wife (Paperback)
I was looking forward to reading this book. I had heard the positive reviews..."beautiful love story, well-written, etc." and approached it with enthusiasm! Well, maybe I missed something, but this is not a well-written book. It reads like the author's first novel...and surprise surprise it is! There is just too little character development. I never got attached to Clare or Henry. There were other problems which could have been overlooked if the characters felt real and I was attached to them. There was too much description of random situations and inanimate objects that didn't feel relevant to the story. And the crude language and over-sexed feel DID made this book totally unromantic. Don't believe what others reviews on this site are saying. These two people are "f**king" every few pages. And what woman in a love story refers to her privates using the "C" word? Yuck! I found myself cringing at many points in the book. And what was the point of some of the storylines- Gomez loving Clare, random punk music references? I read a lot and don't say this very often, but I honestly hated this book. Blech!
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The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Paperback - May 27, 2004)
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