Monday, May 19, 2014

THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger - Book Review

Rating: 4/5 -  A satisfying read that’s worth every word.
Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

trade paperback, ebook


Genre: romance, science fiction, speculative fiction

Publisher: Vintage Canada

Landed in my hands:
purchased myself

Summary (from cover blurb):

When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity form his life, past and future. Henry and Clare’s attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it’s about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.


This book has been on my To Read list since its publication. After seeing the film I needed to wait until my recollection was fuzzy before I hit the pages, and by the time I decided to give it a go I discovered I owned multiple copies—a hardcopy on my bookshelf and an ebook copy. Apparently I’ve been, uh, determined to read this title.

So glad I did.

Why? Well, because it’s that rare book that thanks to its concept is a different type of story than anything else on my shelf. The Time Traveler’s Wife has a circular narrative that questions fate, and analyzes the connection between two people; how a fundamental relationship that circles back and forth through time molds them into who they eventually become. A nature over nurture kind of thing with a dash of chicken or the egg philosophy.

I expected fluff, so I was pleased to discover this is a book that makes you think.

There were surprises in this novel, too. I was glad to see that Henry’s time traveling ability did not exist in a bubble. Yes, out of necessity he needs to hide it from many people, but it’s remarkable how many characters in the story are aware of it. There is a the supportive community that develops around Henry, and it's interesting to see how they are affected by his affliction.

I enjoyed the writing, too. Niffenegger has lovely authentic-feeling diction, giving the characters individuality, as well as lending warmth to the writing that makes you anticipate your next chance to return to the narrative; it’s homey, natural, and comforting.

It’s soft science fiction, and it’s romance. The Time Traveler's Wife is not some fantastical jaunt across time that relies on its readers to stretch the limits of their ability to suspend disbelief; no, it feels genuine—as if this story could actually happen, or is happening now (tomorrow? yesterday? heh).

I get giddy with the thought of this book's potential to be a gateway drug for women into science fiction. I’ve always read genres that defied so-called gender norms, and sadly I’m aware I buck the trends. Though the demographic of female speculative fiction readers is rising, these are ultimately genres dominated by male readers and writers.  

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a novel that will let realism readers ease into the waters of speculative fiction without causing a ripple of discomfort. It's my hope that with this book perhaps some female genre-snobs might be enlightened, realizing that good stories can and do exist outside of the realism label, and that maybe they’ll find something different that strikes heartstrings while sparking imagination at the same time.

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