The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger Reader vs Time Traveler’s Wife: The Case of the Time Travelling Romance Science Fiction Novel

The novel opens with Clare (20) meeting Henry (28). But the strange thing is…she’s known him since she was six! That’s because Henry has a genetic condition which has him floating through time, and his future self had met Clare’s childhood. The story progresses to show Clare first meeting Henry, her childhood, their marriage, and their struggles having children.

I Liked:
Audrey Niffenegger makes an unconventional (to me) use of the first person. Both protagonists—Clare and Henry—tell their story in first person present. It gives a sense of immediacy to their story, and a personal touch.
Henry’s story, in particular, was very touching, very moving. At times, I greatly pitied him, time hopping back to his mother’s death, never able to stay with his wife in the present, having a poor relationship with his father, and trying to find a cure for his disability.
I was vastly impressed at how well Niffenegger wove the timelines. Henry time jumps all over the place, yet to my eyes, Niffenegger kept her dates straight, knew exactly where she was going and what Henry and Clare did what and when.
The ages of Henry and Clare at the beginning of each section were very helpful.
I also liked how the audiobook employs two narrators: a man to read Henry’s portions and a woman to read Clare’s. This helps me keep them straight. Also, both voices were very enjoyable to listen to, and Clare’s narrator did a decent job of speaking for Henry.

I Didn’t Like:

The Case for Clare Being a Mary Sue:

Point 1: Long, flowing, red hair
Point 2: Coming from a wealthy, privileged family where she has servants in the 1970’s & 1980’s (not like the 1870’s & 1880’s)
Point 3: Growing up never having to work and getting to do art, while her fellow art students are starving or barely able to do art
Point 4: Wanting a baby and after six tries, finally having a child
Point 5: Angsting over a crime she didn’t exactly commit: “cheating” on Henry by sleeping with Gomez (no regret and shame for sleeping with her best friend, Charisse’s, boyfriend), when A) she wasn’t married or dating him at the time, B) Henry fooled around a lot more than she did and C) it wasn’t her fault to begin with (she was drunk).
Point 6: Everyone loves her and wants to sleep with her (Henry, Gomez, multiple potential boyfriends both in high school and college).
Point 7: Being an amazing artist, having her own art exhibit, and being oohed and aahed by everyone.

The Case for Flat Secondary Characters:

Point 1: Gomez, described mostly by his chain smoking addiction and the fact he’s an anarchist (I didn’t even know he was a lawyer until the end!).
Point 2: Celia, black lesbian who has a new lover each week and ends all dialogue with “Sista”.
Point 3: Ingrid, who is messed up because she loved Henry and is unable to move on from him
Point 4: Cherisse, who plays backseat to her boyfriend, Gomez
Point 5: Mark, who is a pothead
Point 6: Alicia, who is a quirky cellist
Point 7: Richard, who is a grieving, alcoholic violinist
Point 8: Kimmy, who speaks in white-interpreted Korean stereotypes
Point 9: Edna/Nell, who speaks in white-interpreted Black stereotypes, ending most dialogue with something akin to “Chile”
Point 10: Kendrick, who is the nerdy, single-minded scientist, having no ethical concerns, and will stop at nothing to find “The Solution”

The Case for Unnecessary Details:

Point 1: Play by play description of a pool game
Point 2: Play by play description and instructions on how to play Gomez’s modified Monopoly
Point 3: A list of all 1970’s & 1980’s punk bands
Point 4: The 9/11 Tower Crash
Point 5: Clare drawing her child
Point 6: Clare and Henry talking about how much sex they have and if that’s normal
Point 7: Every single sexual encounter Clare and Henry have
Point 8: Detailed descriptions of Clare creating “wings”

The Case for Out of Character Moments:

Point 1: Clare using the c-word to describe her anatomy
Point 2: Two teenaged Henry’s sleeping with each other

The Case for a Lack of Chemistry/Sex-Based Romance:

Point 1: The first time they meet, they end their date in Henry’s apartment, in his bed
Point 2: Clare and Henry can’t spend two days at Clare’s parents place without humping
Point 3: Clare sneaks off to bed Henry before her wedding on the very wedding day

The Case for Being Pretentious:

Point 1: Flipping back and forth between time periods
Point 2: References to music and theater
Point 3: Passages in French and German
Point 4: Poetry readings during childbirth

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Heavy. F-bombs galore, at least one instance of the c-word, loads of sh**, he** & da**.
A lot. Clare and Henry go at each other with little encouragement.
Clare has five miscarriages. The results are nasty.

In conclusion, this court finds The Time Traveler’s Wife to be guilty of pretentious “artsy” book syndrome. While the novel has an interesting concept and flirting with the idea of free will and predestination, it doesn’t take the concept far enough and instead flounders with a lack of chemistry between the protagonists and completely superfluous details. 2/5