Book Review – The Time Traveler’s Wife

Time Traveler's Wife

Synopsis from the back of the book: The Time Traveler’s Wife is the extraordinary love story of Henry and Clare who met when Clare was six and Henry is thirty-six and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible, but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

I read this book, because it sounded very intriguing, but I live to regret that decision. Henry and Clare’s relationship is only based on the fact that on one of his time travels, he landed in a meadow near Clare’s house and he meets her when she is six. During the time when she grows up, Henry keeps popping up every now and then, having given her a list of dates when to expect him so she can meet him in the meadow. When she is twenty, she meets Henry in real time and they start dating.

The meetings between Henry and Clare when Clare is still under-age are uncomfortably laced with pedophile feelings on Henry’s part. Even though Clare is his wife in his present, she is still a child when she first meets him. She grows up in the knowledge that she will become his wife, preventing her from leading a normal life and figuring out for herself who she wants to be with. For a while I thought – and hoped – that Henry had traveled back in time to “meet” Clare when she was six to manipulate her into marrying him when she was finally an adult. That would have made for a much more interesting story!

The author demands a lot of faith from the reader. There are quite a number of inconsistencies with the time traveling theory which defy credibility. If you are going to write science fiction, or insert a science fiction element into your love story, at least make sure it works and is consistent.

Some of the more salient points:

Time traveling is a genetic disorder that Henry has, yet in the beginning when he meets Clare, they have the following exchange:

People only travel in time in movies.”

That’s what we want you to believe.”

Why?”

If everyone time traveled it would get too crowded.”

If his ability to travel in time is due to a rare genetic disorder, there would be no “we” who would like to have everyone believe that people only travel in time in movies. Also, it would not be crowded because there are not that many people with Henry’s genetic disorder.

Also, Henry cannot take anything with him when he time travels. Even his clothes are left behind. Presumably this is not something he can control, it is linked with the genetic disorder of time traveling. However, in explanation to Clare why he cannot take anything, he says:

Well, think about it. If time travelers started to move things around in time, pretty soon the world would be a big mess. Let’s say I brought some money with me into the past. I could look up all the winning lottery numbers and football teams and make a ton of money. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

This does not make sense. If Henry’s ability to travel in time is the result of a genetic disorder, there would  be a scientific reason why he cannot bring anything. However, the way he explains it, there is a moral reason for not being able to bring anything with him, which suggests that time traveling is ruled by someone (or a group of persons) who set out the rules and regulations of time traveling.

There are a lot of circular references, as I like to call them, in the book. Starting at the beginning of the book, older Henry travels back in time to teach his younger self how to survive the dangers of time traveling, for example how to pickpocket. Presumably, if older Henry had not taught himself that, his younger self would have struggled more with time traveling. However, young Henry would have had to grow up to become an adult before he could go back to teach himself those skills and at that time, what would be the point of teaching him that? He would have already survived long enough to make it to adulthood and since he cannot change the past, the lessons would not have made an impact.

Another example of this is how Henry convinces Dr. Kendrick to treat him. Dr. Kendrick is not too keen until Henry tells him that his unborn son has Down’s Syndrome and that he will have another, healthy child. Henry would not have had access to that information if he had not traveled back in time with that information, obtained from Dr. Kendrick himself during treatment, and handed it to himself in order to use it to convince Dr. Kendrick. Think about these confusions of cause and effect long enough and you will start to go mad.

I could have maybe overlooked all these inconsistencies if the love story between Henry and Clare had been moving and unforgettable, but unfortunately it is not. The have a lot of sex;, Henry moves in and out of the present; they have a child who they, irresponsibly considering the dangers of time traveling, allow to time travel without worrying about her; and that is about it.

All in all, I cannot recommend this book.

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8 thoughts on “Book Review – The Time Traveler’s Wife

  1. It’s okay, though maybe you should have said that in the review. So you decided you could do better on the subject, eh? 😉

  2. It’s like you totally missed the points of these parts of the story. Henry’s explanations to Clare aren’t inconsistencies, they are ways he’s trying to make it funny and put it in terms a child can understand. He’s not speaking from scientific truth.

    Inconsistencies? Circular references? That was the whole point. That was the ‘clincher’ of the story. That was why it was about time travel in the first place to create a lot of fun little ‘conundrums’.

    I really think you missed out by reading from a POV that didn’t match the book. I think you tried taking it for a serious sci-fi (a rare genre to begin with) and that obviously wasn’t it’s intent.

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