Sparked by Words

I was completely spellbound by The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel. It was a story that seized me by my heart and imagination and didn’t let go for over five hundred pages and many hours of reading. It begins with Clare’s voice: It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays… Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him.

I’ve been in love. Sometimes that means being left at the margins, wondering about the man I love, the parts of him he won’t reveal, waiting for him to come to me, to talk with me. Worrying about the state of our relationship. Clare has my thoughts in her throat.

Henry speaks next: How does it feel? How does it feel? Sometimes it feels as though your attention has wandered for just an instant… I am always going, and she cannot follow.

Is this how my husband feels about us, that he must leave, at least emotionally, and always leave without me? Is this the mutable state of all relationships, that we move not so much together as in close proximity to each other and sometimes in different spheres altogether?

Love stories are a staple of book plots and often boringly predictable. Not so the love story in Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Its transcendent circumstances lift its characters well beyond the bonds of earth’s calculable orbit and launch them into a world where calendars can’t determine the time of year, and presence in one year won’t predict continuity. The book follows the relationship of Clare and Henry, a couple who barely stay in touch with each other physically yet remain loyal and infatuated forever – both before and after they’ve met. Nothing in this world or outside of it will ever interrupt the love that binds them, not even Henry’s inability to remain in his wife’s presence for any length of time.

Back and forth between Clare and Henry, the story navigates the complexity of their relationship, in and out of various time periods. The lovers confront each other at different moments of their lives, not always recognizing who they are. Clare is a child. Henry is an adult in his prime. Finally they are at a compatible age to marry and so they do. Then they are apart. Clare, old now, waits. Henry, in trouble, hopes to return to her. In Niffenegger’s deft hands, time is neither permanent, reliable, nor linear but a malleable element to be bent for the purpose of describing the depth of their romance.

Henry suffers greatly for the disorder that causes him to jump in and out of time periods without warning, often landing him in perilous situations, unclothed, vulnerable. His jumps leave him confused, injured, pursued, accused of crimes, and uncertain of his future, even if there will be a future. The one thing he can count on is Clare’s steadfast love, the quality of constancy that brings him back to her.

Anyone who has ever felt the despair of betrayal or of a broken relationship will be moved by the endurance of Henry and Clare’s love, he who meanders in and out of their lives, she who waits devotedly. No one will experience the fabricated genetic disorder that precipitates Henry’s time traveling, but all of us have felt the depth of the couple’s passion. Or long to. Between the book’s covers is a soaring sci-fi/fantasy romance twisted inside a freakish yet compelling storyline.

I’ve read that Niffenegger wrote the book at a time that she was questioning her own relationships. She was also influenced by her father who traveled often during her childhood.

If you’ve seen the movie, but have not read the book, read the book. If you wait for love or have been fortunate to have found it, read the book. And to all others – read the book.

The Time Traveler’s Wife won the Exclusive Books Boeke Prize awarded in South Africa and follows this award given to many other prestigious books, most of which I’ve also read. In other words, a book in excellent company.

I look forward to learning about your favorite T fiction books.


Other books that were serious contenders for T:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Time to Kill by John Grisham

The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

To the End of the Land by David Grossman

A Town like Alice by Neville Shute

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith



Book cover image courtesy: Google images and MacAdam/Cage



Comments on: "T is for The Time Traveler’s Wife" (18)

  1. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a superlative book – one of my all time favourites and you’ve written a beautiful tribute to it here, Sharon! I can only echo your recommnedation​ for people to read it!

    Going through my kindle one ‘T’ book I read a while ago still stays with me. Beautifully, brilliantly written, the subject matter is tough but handled well and the characters terrific. It’s called ‘Trail of Broken Wings’ by Sejal Bandari.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Annika, for the kind comments about my review.

      I’m off to look up Trail of Broken Wings as I’ve never heard of it, but the title is intriguing. Sounds like it may get on my TBR list. It’s wonderful that great books get promoted on blogs, especially if they are lesser known.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have wondered about this book, but not yet read it. You make it sound fascinating, Shari.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Time Traveler’s Wife, like so many of the books I’ve chosen to discuss on this alphabet list, has been made into a movie, and many people know the movies before reading or even only, rather than the book. And although some of the movies were well done, this one was shallow and melodramatic – not surprising because those are the easiest elements to capture on film. The book is wondrous, to reconfigure your word, Jacqui.


  3. nice review! I loved the book and the movie, and because my husband travels so much, it really hit home for me 🙂


  4. Tess is so beautiful and so unrelentingly miserable!

    Great review, Shari.


  5. I’ve been asked to read this book many times. Maybe one day I will. You write of their relationship in such a loving way, Shari.


    • Audrey, I think you should only read if you choose – but you can probably read the opening chapter on Amazon, and that will give you a taste to see if you’d like to read more. I still think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I had heard of the movie, but not seen it. The book looks great and is supported in the comments. Your wonderful review makes me want to go check it out 😀


    • I’m glad you enjoyed the review, Terri. We all know that most books are not done justice in film, (simply can’t tell the breadth and depth of a book in less than two hours of viewing) but movies are a good introduction for people who might then choose to read the book. And for those who won’t read – well, the movie is all they get.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never read Time Traveler’s Wife. In general, I have issues with time travel storylines and tend to avoid them (though that doesn’t stop me from watching Doctor Who religiously!) Even if I had read it, though, A Tale of Two Cities would still be my favorite T book. It’s my favorite Dickens, and one of only two books I can quote passages from by memory. (The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is the other.)


    • I also loved A Tale of Two Cities. One of the very few things I ever memorized was the beginning of the book which I loved from age nine. I couldn’t read the entire book then – it was too deep for me – but I think Dicken’s paragraph is the best book beginning ever written. It still sums it up for me – life in general.


  8. Hi Sharon, hope you’re doing well. I have to admit that there is something in me that fails to understand time travel books. It’s a running joke in the family; any book or movie with time travel and I get very confused! So although I started this book but after about 100 pages had to put it aside because I was totally lost! But as a huge Hardy fan, I love your suggestion of Tess. On another topic, thanks so much for your kind interest in my welfare. I actually suffer from the big D from time to time, which strips me of all enthusiasm for cycling, walking, blogging etc. But as I say, things are looking a bit better. Denzil


    • Denzil, please don’t apologize. There are all kinds of book genres that don’t appeal to me and a scan of all the titles I’ve suggested will show holes in my reading choices. By my choice, of course.

      So very sorry to read about your suffering. Any illness can take hold with an iron grip and never let go, or never seem to. I hope you remain on the healthy side.


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