The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

Looking back at the previous posts here on GeekReads, it’s obvious that if I’m only going to write reviews whenever I actually finish reading a book, it’s going to be a very long time between posts. So I’d like to introduce a new category: “GeekReads recommends”. These posts will mention books that I’ve read and enjoyed in the past,  which – obviously – I highly recommend to you.

The main difference between Recommendations and Reviews is that in the former, I’ll be looking at the books in more general terms, since it could have been anything from a week to a year or more ago that I last looked at it.

So with that in mind, here’s the first GeekReads recommendation!

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GeekReads recommends: The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
GeekReads recommends: The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

The movie adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, directed by Robert Schwentke and starring Eric Bana (Star Trek, Hulk) and Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls, The Notebook), is due out in Australia this November. So now would be a good time to catch this book, because judging by the mediocre ratings on the aggregate review sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, the movie doesn’t do the book justice. But the real injustice would be if people didn’t read this book as a result of seeing the movie.

The basic premise is that Henry DeTamble, a librarian, suffers from a rare genetic defect which makes him travel through time involuntarily. Therefore at any given moment, he simply vanishes, leaving behind nothing but a pile of clothes (not even the fillings in his teeth make the jump), and reappears somewhere else at random. The rest of the plot tells the life-long love story between him and Claire Abshire, whom Henry first meets as a child on one of his jumps, and later marries.

By their very nature, time travel stories are usually fraught with problems such as the Grandfather Paradox, but TTW – as it’s affectionately known by fans – doesn’t suffer from this. The book assumes that there is one, and only one, temporal continuity on top of which the plot is built. Niffenegger deftly weaves a tale that jumps wildly from era to era, while preventing the reader from becoming confused through the clever device of putting the date and Henry and Claire’s ages at the beginning of each chapter.

A promotional still from The Time Traveler's Wife
A promotional still from the movie version of The Time Traveler’s Wife

The time travel gimmick also allows the author to explore the characters in a much deeper way than a linear narrative, because it allows the characters to be in significantly different emotional states when they encounter each other; e.g. one of the plot elements involves the couple’s problems conceiving, and Henry (and therefore the reader) is clearly able to see the contrast between Claire’s tired and defeated present self, and her happy and blissfully unaware past self.

Be warned though, the book is a little bit saucy and not one for the prudish, but is otherwise utterly, utterly compelling, and one of my favourite books of all time.

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Buy The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger from The Book Depository.

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