Nov 26

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger | Book Discussion

The-Time-Travelers-Wife-by-Audrey-NiffeneggerDisclaimer: This post contains a lot of spoilers, as it is a book discussion and not a review. If you haven’t read this book, do check out my spoiler-free review here. Once you do get a chance to read the book, I would love it if you would participate in the discussion.

Major Spoilers Ahead – You have been warned!

If you are still here, I am assuming that you have read this book, and I am excited to discuss this with you. I look forward to hearing from you in the comments. So let’s begin.  🙂

Free Will

Okay, this has given me quite a few sleepless nights, as I have mulled over this concept, and my thoughts just seem to go around in circles; which is why I wanted to discuss it with you guys. So help me out here, please. 🙂

Have you understood the concept of free will in this book?

Henry says that he only has free will in the present, and not in the past and future; which makes sense – kind of. But this also gets a little confusing – when 36-year-old Henry meets 6-year-old Clare for the first time (from Clare’s POV that is), the first meeting (from Henry’s POV) when Henry was 28 and Clare was 20, has already happened. But it is this meeting at 36, that affected the meeting at 28, which basically means that it was all predestined. So where does free will fit in this situation?

As I see it, the whole thing is a paradox. He went to a past from a future that couldn’t have existed unless he changed the past in order to affect that future. But I guess, in this book you can’t really worry about paradoxes (without driving yourself insane); you just have to let go of the feeling that something might never have happened were it not for the other thing, as the cause and effect are impossibly tangled up.

What do you guys think?

Henry’s reaction to his imminent death

Now this if you remember, happened just before Alba was born, when Henry time-traveled 10 years into the future, and found out that he dies in 5 years from the present. What irked me here was the fact that outside of the initial (mild) shock, there was no reaction from Henry. It is understandable that he would not react in front of Alba, and also not tell Clare. However, this was a time I really wanted a peek into his mind; to see how he processed this piece of information, and what he planned to do about it. Surprisingly, the author skipped all that, and it was SO frustrating. But me being the eternal optimist, thought this was all a part of a grand plan by the author, and she will do a big reveal in the climax; but there was nothing. *sigh*

Did you guys feel the same way?

Clare & Alba post Henry

The other thing that has troubled me about this book  is how the ending has been handled.

One of the things that I absolutely loved in this book was Henry’s final letter to Clare – the one in which he asks her to embrace and really LIVE her life. That was incredibly touching, and so poignant. However, there is no indication that she did. All I saw her doing was crying, and sleeping, and crying, and sleeping some more. That is just so sad.

She had a daughter – a daughter that SHE very much wanted, but Clare’s love and commitment towards Alba just did not come across (if it was even present). I agree that losing one’s spouse is a devastating experience, but so is losing a parent, and I did not see Clare wanting to make it better for Alba. She was just focused on her own grief, and it seemed like she left Alba to her own devices.

Now this could have been a passing phase – a mourning period -which is completely understandable. And for some time, Clare can be excused for being overwhelmed by her grief and  not being able to focus on anything/anyone else. But then the author just skipped all the remaining years (and 47 years is kind of a big jump, no?), and brought the story to when Clare was 82.

It felt extremely unfair to me that the author did not even give a summary of how Clare and Alba went through their lives after Henry- how did they deal with Alba having the same disorder? -what did Alba choose in the future?- did she embrace time travel or try to stop it? Not too many details, but a brief summary was required.

The irony here is that the book is titled The Time Traveler’s Wife, yet more than half of Clare’s life was just glossed over, as if it did not have any relevance without Henry.

Did you guys feel that the readers deserved a summary? Or did you think that it was fine to leave it to our imagination?

Incredibly Romantic or Extremely Cruel?

My feelings about the ending depend on my mood. Some days I feel that the ending was depressing, but realistic, as not everyone gets a happily ever after. But on other days I feel like the ending was horrible. Sure life isn’t always about rainbows and butterflies, but it isn’t always this traumatic either.  

Moreover, I honestly can’t decide whether Clare being able to see Henry one last time (as a younger man jumping way ahead in time, so it was still the past for Henry, who was still dead) was incredibly poignant and touching, or extremely cruel.

Especially him mentioning their meeting in the distant future in the letter – Is that a comfort? I don’t know! I think it can be very torturous for the other person who has a lifetime of waiting ahead of them. I know Henry told Clare to not wait, but given the circumstances, it’s complicated.

And the very final 2 pages – the actual meet first, Clare’s waiting next. What was that? I don’t get it. Moreover, when they finally did meet, I expected something more there.  But there was just a hug (I think, unless I imagined that too) – no words -no nothing. 😐

Did you guys feel that the ending should have been different? Or at-least should have been fleshed out more?


This book could have been so much better; it was often close to being really epic, and then it would fall flat instead of climaxing. Having said that, there’s still too much to like about this book – the love and connection between Henry and Clare is such a joy to watch, and also there is something so real, raw and powerful about the sadness and grief it portrays.  I bawled like a baby at the end – it was so tragic to me, and yet so very sweet at the same time. Contradictions, contradictions, I know. 🙂

Get this book – you will not regret it!

The Time Traveler's Wife (Amazon)
The Time Traveler's Wife (Flipkart)

Lots of Love

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  1. I have not read the book but seen the movie..I know, it’s not the right way to go about the process 🙂 But I liked the movie and loved the concept even more…Maybe after reading the book, I’ll be able to see and understand the intricacies better…
    nabanita recently posted…#NewMomTales : 15 Truths From A First Time MomMy Profile

  2. I haven’t read the book and it has been on TBR list since like forever. So I am book marking this for now and coming back once I’m done with the book.
    Soumya recently posted…Scent Of A WomanMy Profile

  3. To all your queries I want to say that the book was about the impossible love between the two. With all the time traveling and the awareness that this is happening. The emotions, turmoil all to show that the climax was no climax. It was all spiralling to the end! I could sense that pain all through. The logical idea that their love was experiencing. Death.

  4. Not a book I have read, but your review made me curious Shanaya…
    Eli recently posted…Just an eveningMy Profile

  5. Hi Shantala, Free will, time travel all interesting concepts seem to be punched in the book, though from the review it appears that you didn’t quite like a depressing ending. Well I too have a bias towards a plain or a better ending, I share your view that though the world may not be rosy but neither it is always miserable.

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