The Time Traveler’s Wife

Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler's Wife (2003). 546 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $14.95

I remember seeing this book everywhere when it became a best seller several years ago. The idea of the book appealed to me but I never had the chance to pick it up. My chance came when they recently came out with the movie version starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. As I always prefer to read the book first, I finally made a library trip.

The novel follows the lives of Henry De Tamble and his wife, Clare. Henry is a time traveler, affected by a genetic disorder that enables him to involuntarily travel through time. Henry and Clare’s lives are completely intertwined as he begins visiting her while she is very young. The novel follows the story of their relationship.

Although the concept of the book seemed interesting, I was a little worried. A cohesive narrative for someone who time travels is not an easy feat. I was afraid that the narrative would be jumbled and the time jumps would be confusing. I am delighted to report that I was wrong.

Each chapter is listed with time, place, and how old Henry is (which helps a lot). And the novel is set up in a way where things all tie together in their own time. Henry is a complicated character who changes and develops as he goes through the unique time line that is his life, and especially grows as a character with Clare. Clare is his perfect match, and some of the chapters of her waiting for him to return from his ventures in time are heartbreaking.

One of the main issues in the book is Henry and Clare attempting to have a child, and Clare has several miscarriages. These scenes are not for the faint of heart as they are very descriptive and gory, but heartrendingly told from a woman who desperately wants a child of her own. The supporting characters surrounding Henry and Clare were vividly told and played some key parts in the novel: Henry’s dad, Clare’s family, Clare’s friend Gomez, and Henry’s neighbor Mrs. Kim. Be warned that the book is somewhat of a tearjerker, and I was crying a bit at the end (like the soft-hearted sap that I am).

Overall, I absolutely loved the book. I thought the storyline was executed well and the story was beautifully told. Henry and Clare had great chemistry together and I believed their story. I rate it a 5/5.

I knew making a movie based on this book would be incredibly hard. There is SO much detail about Henry and Clare’s life, there would be too much to fit in the movie to accurately represent the beauty of the book. When I learned that the movie was only 107 minutes, I knew it would be lacking a lot for me.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (2010). PG-13. Starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. Directed by Robert Schwentke. 107 min. $28.98

I was right.

The beginning was set up well considering that it can be a difficult narrative to follow. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams (playing Henry and Clare respectively) represented their characters well, and overall the movie script stayed very close to the book.

However, the slight deviations the writers made from the storyline were not done well. I’m not opposed to writers changing or adapting certain parts in the movie, as long as it is works. Unfortunately, that was not the case. There were two key events involving Clare’s character that change the entire story, and they were only glossed over in the movie. The way these events were written and perhaps performed in the movie ruined Clare’s character for me. Instead of painting Clare as the devoted, patient wife, she seemed manipulative, bossy, and a little b*tchy. Those scenes really irked me, and I had a hard time enjoying the movie afterwards.

Overall, the movie was okay. I wish they had spent a little bit more time on some of the supporting characters’ roles such as Henry’s relationship with his dad or Clare’s relationship with Gomez. I did like that the movie followed pretty closely with the book, and there were certain scenes that were done very well. However, I still was bothered by how Clare’s actions seemed so manipulative in the two scenes I mentioned. I rate it a 2.5/5.

I do feel that the movie was a decent visual adaptation of the book, and could be enjoyed without reading the novel. In this case though, the book is much more rewarding.

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3 thoughts on “The Time Traveler’s Wife

  1. just like you, i read the book and then saw the movie. i agree with you in that one of the reasons the movie adaptation didn’t work was because the movie was too short to capture all the feelings and little details that make the book enjoyable. another problem was that they probably tried to follow the book’s storyline a little too exactly. i think the best book to movie adaptations are ones that take a story and twist it and re-mold it into something different and yet the same (i’m thinking along the lines of a walk to remember-book vs. a walk to remember-movie). i just think that sometimes, movie-makers just don’t use enough of their own imagination and talent.

    • Interesting idea about following the book too exactly. That makes sense. The only issue I have with that is when screen writers remold it into something else, I feel like it becomes its own entity. The movie almost isn’t worth comparing to the book because it is something so different. (A Walk to Remember is a great example of that actually. Good choice!) But I do agree that the writers could definitely have done more with this story in particular.

      • Like Howl’s Moving Castle– it’s very vaguely inspired, and some character details stay the same, but so very much changes that it doesn’t seem like the same story anymore.

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