The Time Traveler’s Wife is a Science Fiction novel: it’s about a guy who has a genetic disorder which causes him to periodically jump around through time. This basic premise is sure to be a little off-putting to those to whom science fiction leaves a bitter aftertaste. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story: it’s about the love between two people despite circumstances that continually pull them apart. This basic premise is sure to be a little off-putting to those for whom love stories don’t have enough lasers. And so TTW is stuck between two seemingly irreconcilable ideas. It’s not a split straight done the middle: If pushed to make a choice, TTW would plop itself down on the romance side of things.
Henry the Librarian has the aforementioned rare genetic disease which causes him to occasionally be jolted through time. He’s largely confined to his own lifetime, so there are no battles with rampant Assyrians and no lasers. Clare is a young lady who since childhood has been visited by a strange man who claims to come from the future. I’m sure you’re seeing where this is going.
At its heart TTW is story of love and separation; what it means to be pulled from the one you love against your will; what it means to love and most of all, what it means to wait. The novel is initially disconcerting as the chapters jump through time as randomly as Henry does, focusing on moments Kate and Henry’s life together in no particular order. This continues for two thirds of the novel forcing the reader to experience the protagonist’s love life in as disjointed a fashion as they did. Pretty clever, huh?
There did come a point where I was acquainted with the characters and their situations and diligently sat around waiting for something to happen. This sad state of affairs continued for a chapter or two, before the novel kicks into overdrive. The final third of the book is ushered in with a phone call from the future and hops from set-piece to set-piece with some truly shocking scenes leading up to a satisfying dénouement (good word, huh?)
If I was a time-traveling, hard drinking librarian I’d sure try to do a lot more interesting things with the nature of the space-time continuum than Henry does, but the space-time continuum is not what this novel is about. It’s about love and loss and longing, about being separated from the one you love. TTW certainly delivers in that regard.
PG-Warning – Some of the sex scenes are kind of rough. I don’t know how rough because I skipped them. Just thought you’d like to know.
UPDATE: The Movie is coming. Eric Bana (Hulk, Hector and that villian from the new Star Trek movie I still have to see) and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook and um, Redeye, I guess) are kicking it as Clare and Henry at the end of 2009.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is Number 24 on the Exclusive Books 101 Books to Read Before You Die List.
A short side note on what I like and what I don’t like about time travel. This is very science-fiction-y; skip it if you’re not into that stuff
My preference is for a “solid all the way through” universe, where it is impossible to change anything. Anything you do in the past will end up having been there all the time. That’s why it’s called the past. This view fits my basically fatalistic world-view; nothing you do can affect anything or and no-one’s grandfather gets killed<p style=”text-
Second best is a many universes approach where each journey in time creates a new universe where events. The future you came from is either a) utterly obliterated or b) unaffected; existing alongside the current time line.
TTW adopts the first approach. For this I am grateful. I’m grateful because these are the only two postulates that make sense. The only two. Anything else is wrong. There are a myriad of paradoxes and inconsistencies that occur if anything else is possible. I’m looking at you Heroes. And Back to the Future. And Meet the Robinsons. And The Sarah Connor Chronicles. (Maybe Lost will do it right. Faraday!)