In a clever, sometimes funny story, time travel becomes a prism through which we view love. The events are delightfully screwy.... Nonetheless, the novel has a slightly commercial feel to it, as if written in the expectation of a Hollywood film. [Ed. note—the film was released in 2009. Verdict? Neh...]
A LitLovers LitPicks (Oct. '06)
What The Time Traveler's Wife does best is to show the inner life of an enduring relationship as only its protagonists can know it.
Eric Weinberger - The Washington Post
Young lovers often believe themselves crossed by fate or by time, but those in Niffenegger’s spirited first novel have more reason than most. Henry suffers from Chrono-Impairment—a quasi-medical condition that catapults him, unwillingly, from one random point in time to another. Clare first meets him in 1977, when she is six and he materializes near her parents’ garden as a thirty-six-year-old from 2000; he returns regularly throughout her childhood from different times in their shared future. At last, when Clare is twenty and Henry twenty-eight, they meet in his present, and the relationship begins in earnest. But romance proves even trickier than usual when one person keeps vanishing to distant, and occasionally dangerous, times. Niffenegger plays ingeniously in her temporal hall of mirrors, but fails to make the connection between the lovers as compelling as their odd predicament.
The New Yorker
Niffenegger, despite her moving, razor-edged prose, doesn't claim to be a romantic. She writes with the unflinching yet detached clarity of a war correspondent standing at the sidelines of an unfolding battle. She possesses a historian's ye for contextual detail. This is no romantic idyll.
Kathy Balog - USA Today
This highly original first novel won the largest advance San Francisco-based MacAdam/Cage had ever paid, and it was money well spent. Niffenegger has written a soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes, and one that skates nimbly around a huge conundrum at the heart of the book: Henry De Tamble, a rather dashing librarian at the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, finds himself unavoidably whisked around in time. He disappears from a scene in, say, 1998 to find himself suddenly, usually without his clothes, which mysteriously disappear in transit, at an entirely different place 10 years earlier-or later. During one of these migrations, he drops in on beautiful teenage Clare Abshire, an heiress in a large house on the nearby Michigan peninsula, and a lifelong passion is born. The problem is that while Henry's age darts back and forth according to his location in time, Clare's moves forward in the normal manner, so the pair are often out of sync. But such is the author's tenderness with the characters, and the determinedly ungimmicky way in which she writes of their predicament (only once do they make use of Henry's foreknowledge of events to make money, and then it seems to Clare like cheating) that the book is much more love story than fantasy. It also has a splendidly drawn cast, from Henry's violinist father, ruined by the loss of his wife in an accident from which Henry time-traveled as a child, to Clare's odd family and a multitude of Chicago bohemian friends. The couple's daughter, Alba, inherits her father's strange abilities, but this is again handled with a light touch; there's no Disney cuteness here. Henry's foreordained end is agonizing, but Niffenegger has another card up her sleeve, and plays it with poignant grace. It is a fair tribute to her skill and sensibility to say that the book leaves a reader with an impression of life's riches and strangeness rather than of easy thrills.
This debut novel tells the compelling love story of artist Clare and her husband, Henry, a librarian at the Newberry Library who has an ailment called Chrono-Displaced Person (CDP), which without his control removes him to the past or the future under stressful circumstances. The clever story is told from the perspectives of Henry and Clare at various times in their lives. Henry's time travels enable him to visit Clare as a little girl and later as an aged widow and explain "how it feels to be living outside of the time constraints most humans are subject to." He seeks out a doctor named Kendrik, who is unable to help him but hopes to find a cure for his daughter, Alba, who has inherited CDP. The lengthy but exciting narrative concludes tragically with Henry's foretold death during one of his time travels but happily shows the timelessness of genuine love. The whole is skillfully written with a blend of distinct characters and heartfelt emotions that hopscotch through time, begging interpretation on many levels. —David A. Beron , Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham
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