Book Club: The Time Traveler’s Wife

September 4, 2009

travelers Seems like everyone’s been reading this book lately, even though it was published back in 2003. A movie will do that for a book. That’s why I decided to read it, anyway: I was interested in seeing the movie, had heard the book was good, and thought now was as good a time as any to read it.

For those of you who haven’t read it yet, or if you’re a guy and aren’t planning to read it (which is probably a good choice on your part), here’s a quick synopsis. There is this guy named Henry, and he’s a time traveler. It’s a genetic defect. He can’t really control where or when he goes, but he tends to frequent familiar, big events in his life. He ends up marrying a girl named Clare, and after they meet in the present he goes back to visit her when she was growing up a lot. This is their story.

First of all, let’s just get the whole “time travel” thing out of the way. Humans seem to be obsessed with it. (See: time travel films and fiction.) I’m not immune to the fascination of the concept; I’ve read A Brief History of Time. I’ve had deep discussions with my physicist friend about it. I loved the time travel aspect in The Prisoner of Azkaban. I guess we all have such a hard time living in the present that we want to go back and change the past or see what’s coming in our future. But anyway, that’s neither here nor there because we are discussing this book, not contemplating the meaning of life. As far as this book goes, you have to let the time travel issue go. If you try to figure it out, you just may go crazy, because it doesn’t make sense.

Case in point: there is one scene where Henry travels back in time and he is with his younger self in his bedroom. His father catches the two Henrys doing something…less than appropriate with each other (and may I just say now: SICK! Sick sick sick.) and the younger Henry gets mad at the older Henry for not preventing it. Older Henry basically says, “Just wait. You’ll do the same thing.” That got me thinking: so the younger Henry will grow up and do the same thing, then he’ll tell the younger Henry HE visits that HE’LL do the same thing, and on and on and on, and basically Henry will be perpetually alive. I just had to forget about figuring that one out.

This is not really science fiction; it’s a love story and a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it had really been talked up to me, so all in all it didn’t quite meet my expectations. I think the reason that I merely liked this book a lot instead of LOVING it was because I didn’t fully relate to the main characters. They are somewhat privileged,  off on their own in Chicago and into the punk scene as well as things like art and opera. They like to party and swear and have sex pretty much all the time. That’s cool and all, but it’s not something that strikes a chord with me.

But the thing that DID resonate was that Henry and Clare were utterly in love with each other, like I am utterly in love with my husband. That’s why, when I read the end of the book while on the bus, I had to physically hold my face to keep from crying. I didn’t want to be the weird girl weeping in front of a bunch of strangers. If you want to make me cry, just make me read a book or watch a movie where a husband dies young. And then make his wife find a love letter for to read “upon his death.” Guaranteed tears every single time.

Who was your favorite character?

I guess my favorite character would have to be…Clare. Lame, but she was the only one I could kind of identify with, being the wife. I also enjoyed the scenes with Kimy in them. She was very lovable.

What would you have liked to read more about?

I think my favorite parts were when Henry went back in time and met with Clare in the Meadow. He was on his best behavior, and she was young and innocent. From reading those scenes I had one image of Henry in my mind, and THAT Henry was a lot more attractive to me than the person he ended up being.

Overall rating?

I give it 3 out of 5 stars. It was a solid love story with a very interesting element added. Never boring, emotional at the end, and therefore I would recommend it.


And what about the movie?

I saw the movie a few days after finishing the book, which I thought would be a good idea but I don’t think it really was. It was kind of overkill on the story for me. But the movie actually turned out to be a nice surprise because Henry and Clare were much more like normal people and I could relate to them a lot better. It wasn’t hard for me to follow the time travel escapades, but that’s probably because I knew the story. I don’t know if it would have been confusing for someone who didn’t. Again, I was trying extremely hard not to cry, but the tears just spilled over; they couldn’t be helped.

Now it’s your turn to tell me what you thought of the book (or movie)! Comment away.

Next month’s book: It’s another girly one, sorry boys. We’re reading Midwives by Chris Bohjalian and I’ll be writing my review sometime the week of October 4-10. Join me!

Posted in: books & reading, book reviews, books & reading

Comments on Book Club: The Time Traveler’s Wife

  1. 1

    From Rae:

    You have convinced me *not* to read The Time Traveler’s Wife and *to* read Midwives if it is still available at the library. I looked at it about a month ago but already had too many books to read. If it is available then I will certainly “join” you for next month.

  2. 2

    From kapachino:

    Great! I’ve heard from several people that Midwives is an AWESOME book…I’m excited!

  3. 3

    From David, The Rainmaker:

    If you need someone to recommend you a non-girly book, let me know!

  4. 4

    From Ann:

    Read your review Kat, and agree and disagree on a few points. First, I will say that I was eager to read this book, as I find time travel fascinating and thought this story line had great potential to be infinitely intriguing. So I guess we agree on that. Then I got to the scene you mentioned above, when Henry is “with” himself at fifteen. We agree that this is “sick”, but, for me, beyond the pale of “sick”, to unspeakably depraved and debauched, in fact, a deal breaker. I put the book down and deeply regretted spending good money on it. That’s where anything we might have agreed upon ends; ie: I did not find the swearing and the sex cool, but rather, gratuitous and weak, literarily speaking. I have read many love stories that communicated the same (perhaps even greater) level of desire and emotion, but with chastity and virtue, creating a sense of longing and joy for the reader, rather than the shame and embarassment evoked by lurid and erotic writing. Writing is art. The mark of a good writer is his ability to control the imagination of the reader. C.S. Lewis, is such a good example of this in his space trilogy. The creatures he shows us are sometimes without clothing, but are described in such a beautiful way that we understand they transcend clothing – our minds are deftly guided to beauty, truth, honor, goodness. SO not so with this fairly insipid novel. I had high hopes for this story, but oh well. The world is full of truly good books. I’m holding out for them.

  5. 5

    From kapachino:

    I’m SO glad you said all those things, Ann! In fact, I do agree with you. I guess what I meant when I said “that’s cool” was that I understand how someone ELSE could relate to that lifestyle, but I don’t. You might enjoy the movie, because that aspect for the most part is left out.

  6. 6

    From Marlena:

    Lots of sex, punk scenes, and creepy things being done to Henry?! That is so not like the movie! The love stuff, yes, but the rest?! I’d read it but I’ve found that I typically hate reading a book AND seeing the movie!

  7. 7

    From DeMo:

    I finally finished it! My overall feeling about the book was “wow. they have sex all.the.time” and it’s romantic and all, but I wonder if I’d feel different about it if I was married. I do like the time traveling aspect though, even though it is confusing sometimes. One of my favorite books is A Wrinkle in Time.

    I didn’t do the whole time travel loop that you went through, (since I figured that he only went through something once — like he never met up with his younger self again in the museum like he did the first time he traveled) but I did have to think hard about who was where and at what time. I flipped back a lot to piece things together. I’m sure that reading the book again would bring more clarity to how everything happens. It makes me wonder what sort of storyboard the author had going on, so many post-it notes with ages and dates and somehow she wrote a book about it.

    I agree about Clare being my favorite character. I pictured the Clare in the book as Rachel McAdams so it was easy for me to imagine mannerisms or whatever. There was just something about Henry that I didn’t like. He was so concerned about Clare’s innocence when they were in the meadow, so I also liked those parts best.

    It was weird to me that even though he time travels, there was still a lot that Clare knew that he didn’t. She’d known the whole time they were married about what happened on her 18th birthday, but couldn’t tell Henry about it until he experienced it for himself in real time…?

    I’m looking forward to seeing the movie and how the story is different.

  8. 8

    From kapachino:

    Um, yeah…so much sex!! I’m married and I really can’t imagine that. I mean you have to live your life and have other interests!

    Definitely see the movie, I think you’ll like it. Also, you’ve got me wanting to re-read A Wrinkle In Time. Haven’t read it since I was a kid!

  9. 9

    From DeMo:

    If you like A Wrinkle in Time, you might like City of Ember. It’s an easy read, considering it’s 5th grade level. Not so much of a time travel book, but one with a great twist and a little bit of mystery.

  10. 10

    From DeMo:

    Me again. I can’t decide which I like better: seeing the movie first or reading the book. I think maybe reading the book because there’s so much more detail to add to the story. I like how Henry was more classy in the movie and it was much more tasteful. But it was kind of distracting to know that they had to skip over so much good stuff in the story to make a 2-hour movie.

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