Audrey Niffenegger's book is a tale spanning a few decades, ultimately concerning the love between Henry and Clare, but also examining Henry’s ability to leave one time in his life and appear in another.
Despite lacking plausibility, and owing some plot aspects to convenience, this makes for a good book. The author uses the sense of impending doom or imminent danger to create tension and to keep one turning pages.
The style is detailed, with at times over thorough portrayals of methodology in art for example, which clashes with the sketchy medical explanation for Henry’s ability to time-travel. It is written from the point of view of both Henry and Clare which serves to give balance, as the character of Clare is somewhat pure compared to Henry’s darker features.
As well as having a medical slant, the book also has political sympathies, bringing in themes of family, music, art and research, which may seem ambitious but give a rich sense and blend.
Henry has been able to time-travel since a young age, usually unexpectedly and associated with unpleasant effects such as nausea and vomiting. He first meets future wife Clare when she is a small girl and he is middle aged, but in reality they are much closer in age. They form a strong bond and we learn not only what it is like to time-travel (with its related inconveniences) but also what it is like to live with, love and deal with a partner who vanishes without warning, for an unknown amount of time, who may be in danger.
The book reached an interesting peak for me when Henry and Clare try to have a child. The author has explored potential health consequences of such an affliction – Clare suffers multiple miscarriages as her foetuses time travel outside her womb and are immunologically rejected as they re-enter.
‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ has a broad appeal and is written in a neutral manner, making it accessible to readers from all backgrounds. One always has the feeling of what is about to happen but nevertheless one continues to read, seemingly making the conclusion all the more satisfying.