Audrey Niffenegger, Author, Book review, Fiction, literary fiction, Publisher, Setting, USA, Vintage

‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger


Fiction – paperback; Vintage; 529 pages; 2005.

Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife is a magical, extraordinary novel that will stay with you long after you have read the final, heart-wrenching page. A book that defies genres (is it science fiction? romance? fantasy?), it’s received wide critical acclaim and glowing reviews. And with good reason.

Henry is a librarian who suffers a rare genetic disorder in which his chronological clock periodically resets itself. This means he can travel backwards and forwards in time, without warning.

And so, during one of these “episodes”, when he is 36, he meets six-year-old Claire, his future wife, in a field behind her family home. What ensues is a love story like no other.

When he is 30, Henry marries Claire, who is 22. But their marriage is constantly under strain because Henry’s condition means that he can unexpectedly disappear for quite lengthy periods of time.  During these periods of enforced separation, the lovelorn Claire struggles to come to terms with the fact that her life will never be normal. What keeps her going through all Henry’s abnormal absences is her love for him, a love-conquers-all kind of philosophy.

While this might sound like a sappy love story, it is far from that. Despite the unnatural situation in which they find themselves,  Henry and Claire’s relationship is one of the more realistic portrayals I have ever read in modern fiction. Because both characters are flawed (especially Henry), they seem especially believable and authentic, which means you can identify with their predicament so much more easily.

This is Niffenegger’s first novel. Her writing is accomplished and confident. She takes her readers on a rollercoaster ride through every fathomable human emotion. While the story constantly moves backwards and forwards in time, the transitions never confuse the reader. This is helped by the start of each chapter clearly stating the date and the ages of both characters at that particular moment in time; a simple but important detail that aids comprehension.

All in all, I loved this book. Having thoroughly enjoyed the journey it took me on, I was very sad when it came to an end.

Niffenegger is an enormous talent, and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

8 thoughts on “‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger”

  1. The book was recommended by my boss, who couldnt seem to get into it (she kept falling asleep). After the first chapter, i couldnt put it down, and ended up reading it in a few days..


  2. I tried reading this and said, no way, science fiction. And then I listened to it. They use a man and a woman to narrate (which helps knowing who’s talking) and this is one book that benefits from the audio approach. It was magical, and haunting. I would find myself, months later, thinking about the characters and the story. And the end broke my heart, I was so wrapped up in the story…there I was walking around with earphones in my ears and tears in my eyes!


  3. now one of my faves.
    i read this book over a few days – taking every opportunity to consume its pages.
    im awaiting niffenegger’s next novel too.


  4. I found the time travel thing difficult to get my head around at first, but eventually got past it and enjoyed the story, although I wouldn’t rave about it.


  5. It was precisely because of the time travelling element that I didn’t pick this up for the longest time. Especially when everyone around was raving about it. But I’m so glad I did…LOVED IT! The end drew tears and tissues but this book is a defnite re-read. Can’t wait for her next book!


  6. I just wanted to tell you that I read the book based on your opinion. And I fell in love with the style, the format, the characters, the story. It will stay with me forever. I want to reread it soon, but need time to let it fill in all the cracks of my living .


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