I normally do not start my book reviews with the rating, but I need to address this right at the beginning, because I feel that this will give you an idea of how I feel about the book.
I have given this book 4.5 stars out of 5. Now, I have my concerns about the whole rating system in the first place, because at times it is very difficult to give a numerical value to how the book made you feel, but that is a post for another day.
Having said that, do not be fooled by my 4.5 stars. This is an emotional rating. I have oscillated between 4 and 5, and settled on a 4.5. A month from now, I might lean towards a 4, but I just can’t bring myself to do it at the moment. Sigh. 🙁
The story is about two people – the time traveler (Henry), and his wife (Clare). On the surface, they are just like any two people who are in love with each other, except for the fact that Henry travels through time.
Henry is a CDP (Chrono Displaced Person); he has a genetic disorder that makes him involuntarily travel through time to various points in the past and future of his own life, and inexplicably, to Clare’s childhood.
He cannot hold onto any of his possessions when he time travels; which means – no clothes, no food, no money, and goodbye identity! Sometimes he is gone for minutes, sometime for hours, and at times, even for days together. Throughout it all, Clare is at Henry’s side, faithfully waiting for him to return to her, and their life together in the present.
You’d think the time-travel aspect would make this more of a science fiction book, but this is essentially a romance, an epic romance at that. It is a love that transcends time and place. 🙂
Now consider this:
Henry meets Clare for the first time, when he is 28, and Clare is 20. Clare meets Henry for the first time, when she is 6, and Henry is 36. You might think, how is this even possible? Well, welcome to the world of time-travel. 🙂
I am a self-confessed lover of a linear timeline. Generally speaking, I do not like many flashbacks, and a lot of back and forth between different periods of time. I would attribute this to the OCD part of my brain which loves to track the sequence of events and such. So knowing that, just the above paragraph must have given you an idea of how much trauma this book has caused to my little OCD corner!
It was like fixing a puzzle; every time I felt that I got one correct piece at the correct place, 2 other pieces fell off. I had to really focus to figure out the “rules” of time-travel (as performed by Henry), but I worked it out eventually, and by page 150, I had a good handle on it.
Things I liked:
- I felt that the way the author set up the plot movement was ingenious. She managed to create a complex story line without making it impossible to follow.
- I loved all the foreshadowing. The knowing that something was going to happen, and having an inkling about what it was, but never knowing or understanding fully, until both the protagonists had experienced the moment – that was pretty awesome. I especially loved the foreshadowing that led up to the climax. So once the puzzle pieces started to fall together (in the second half), I really couldn’t put the book down.
- I think that including the genetic experiments that Henry participated in was a great idea. It brought a sense of realism to the story. Not that there is anything wrong with sci-fi at all, but I liked the portrayal of the situation as a genetic disorder, rather than a black hole in the universe; it made Henry’s time travel seem very plausible.
- I liked the way the dream sequences were used to describe what was happening to the characters emotionally. I especially connected to that, as I too, get very weird, yet very vivid dreams, depending upon my emotional state.
Things that did not work for me:
- The tedious minutiae of life that the author included is boring to read. The name dropping when it came to Henry’s choice of music; step-by-step descriptions of Clare making art – it was all a bit too much for me.
- The above point especially bothers me because I feel that the author could have used that space for examining the thoughts and feelings of the characters, which was sadly lacking in some areas. To keep this review spoiler free, I can’t go into details (I will have a book discussion on this up soon), but let it suffice for me to say that I wanted a peek into the minds of the characters at some crucial points in their life.
- Having said that, the above 2 points did not bother me as much as the ending did. I am extremely conflicted on that. I am at a loss as to what to say without spoiling anything, so let me keep this for the book discussion too, and say that while I would have loved a different ending, at the very least, I needed MORE to this current ending.
I loved this book. It’s not perfect, but it made me think, and feel, and want (what more can one ask for?). It’s one of those stories that pulls you into the characters’ lives and leaves you wanting more, mulling over the scenes and premise for days after you’ve reluctantly turned the last page.
So I would recommend this book to everyone, in spite of all its faults, this book is an experience NOT to be missed.
For the ones who haven’t read this book-
How do you feel about the concept of time-travel? If you get that as a superpower for a day (with clothes on, unlike Henry 😛 ), would you take it? Tell me, tell me.
For the ones who have read this book –
What are your thoughts on what I have written here? Please do share, if you agree, or even if your opinion differs. I would love to hear a different POV too.
P.S. A spoilery (I know this is not a word) Book Discussion on The Time Traveler’s Wife is coming up soon.
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