Friday Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's WifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was quite the sensation when it first came out, and has gotten many very positive reviews. I just can’t understand why. I found it boring and tedious, with a one-dimensional plot that just restated itself over and over.

The premise is the love story between Henry and Claire, who are married, but their relationship is plagued by Henry’s Chrono Disorder, a genetic flaw that makes him spontaneously jump around in time. He seems to only travel along his own timeline, and perhaps that’s part of the problem. He disappears from Claire’s “present” into his own past, and is gone for undetermined spans of time. While he’s gone, he relives past meetings with Claire, who he first met when he was twenty-six, I believe, and she was six. He appears, naked, in the field on her parents’ property where she is playing.

The biggest problem I had with the book is that nothing, absolutely nothing happens. Well, nothing of real interest or movement. Henry and Claire meet, at various stages of their lives, and then Henry jumps back to Claire’s timeline, and there are pages of introspective narrative picking the meetings apart in boring, repetitive detail. Some of the meetings are from Henry’s POV, and some are Claire’s. All are equally stiff. Neither character is interesting enough to carry this whole story. Henry is a stereotypical boring, stuffy librarian (with apologies to all the librarians I know, because none of you are boring!). Claire is an air headed little rich girl. Both of them do a lot of whining about the difficulties they face in their soliloquy moments. I don’t know about anyone else, but the idea of a grown man suddenly appearing in the life of a six year old girl who he continues to interact with off and on until she grows up and they marry just seemed a bit creepy to me.

And then there are the internal inconsistencies with the time travel part of the story. When Henry jumps in time, he sometimes remembers everything that has happened in the future, but if it doesn’t fit the plot at the moment, he conveniently seems to not remember anything except that he had this Chrono Disorder thing. And Claire is just as bad. There are moments when she knows what is going to happen in the future (for example, telling Henry they are going to get married long before it happens). She shouldn’t “know” any of that at all, since she is living her life in the normal forward direction. She recognizes Henry, which is fine since she first met him when she was a child, but years before they get married, she should not know that fact. Those sorts of lapses make the story even more unbelievable.

Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s not the characters or the time travel that’s important. Maybe it’s the relationship and the struggles and the emotions that are the thing. But, honestly, without interesting, believable characters that I like and with a plot that has far too many very large holes in it, it’s hard to get involved with the relationship.

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