The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffengger

The Time Traveler's WifeSummary: The paradoxes of a science fiction time travel books wrapped in the tragic story of a romance.

A couple weeks ago someone asked me what my favorite book was.  I responded like I normally do and said I had two favorite memoirs of the last year (Surprised by Oxford and Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me).  We had been talking about memoirs, so it made sense in the conversation.

In general I think of favorite books in categories.  How can you compare a theology book and a children’s book or a hard science fiction book and memoir?  Even when I post my books of the year lists, I have a separate fiction and non-fiction list.

But when I went home that night I was thinking through the question again and realized I do have a favorite fiction book.  It is Time Traveler’s Wife.

I first listened to this book on audio in December 2004.  Then I read it in paper the next year.  And I have listened to it again in audio at least twice since then.  I would have purchased it for kindle it it had been available.  (The author is not a fan of ebooks and has expressly said that she does not want it on ebook.)

Then in September Audible gave away a number of books for some promotion and I picked it up again on Audible.  (The promotion is over.)  I did not realize until I listened to this again that the original audiobook was an abridged version.  This audiobook is nearly five hours longer.  I remember the scenes from reading them, but I did not realize the extra scenes were not in the first audiobook until I heard them this time.

The story is about Henry and Claire.  Henry has a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel.  Claire is his wife, that is always waiting on him.  The first time they meet in Claire’s world, Henry was 38 and Claire was six.  Throughout Claire’s childhood, this man would appear to her (always naked because nothing could taken between times) and be with her.  They would play games, he would help her with her homework and they would talk.  The first time they met in Henry’s timeline Henry was 28 and Clare was 20.  Clare had known Henry for most of her life, but it was all new to Henry.  She was already in love, he still had yet to meet her.  The book basically moves along from the point that Claire and Henry meet in Henry’s timeline through their lives with flashbacks to Henry and Claire’s childhoods.

This is everything I like about science fiction.  There are real questions about determinism, time travel, the ability to change the world and yourself.  I am also a romantic at heart and the already determined love story appeals to me.  It is also a tragedy as much time travel stories are.  The point is not the end but how they get there.

The audiobook is very well done, with the chapters narrated by two different voices depending on whether it is Henry or Claire that is narrating that chapter.  The book does a very good job keeping the time travel clear, each chapter has a heading of the time and Claire and Henry’s ages (if they are both in the scene.)

Many people have seen the movie.  I don’t dislike the movie, but as is normal, the movie just did not live up to beauty of the book.

If you are an audiobook fan, this is one you should pick up as an audiobook.  If you like romantic tragedy but not science fiction, pick this up because the science fiction elements are handled lightly.  If you like science fiction but primarily are a fan of military science fiction, you probably will not like this.  I do not know that this book will ever come out on Kindle.  But it easily available in paper (a used copy with free Prime shipping is only $4.01 as I am writing this.)

Those easily offended by language and sex should skip this.  It is sexually explicit, but not what I would call an erotic book.  And the characters swear a good bit. So if you do get this in audiobook, it is not something you would listen to with children around.

Time Traveler’s Wife Purchase Links: Paperback, Audible.com Audiobook

3 Comments

Love TTW! In fact, I liked it so much that I’m afraid to read it again for fear of tarnishing the perfection of that first read. Maybe I’ll give it another go since its held up well in your mind. And I know you’re not easy to please….

You told me this was one of your favorite books of the last decade and it did not disappoint. Incredible book. Glad I got a chance to read it. Thanks for recommending it.

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