[AB] The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

January 29, 2010 § 21 Comments

I have a confession to make: this is my first audiobook.

A little more than 12 hours after I started listening, I think I’m glad I chose the audio version of this book.

Henry is a time traveler. But not in the jump-into-machine-and-press-buttons-and-away-we-go kind of time traveling. In fact, Henry doesn’t get any say at all on when he time travels, where to, when to, and for how long. What happens to him, is he simply disappears from the here and now, appears in some other time and place, stark naked, and then disappears from there again to reemerge from whence he came from, give or take minutes, hours or days.

If my explanation of the premise is not that easy to understand, it’s partly because I’m no good with explanations. And also because, I think, the way Henry actually time travels is not entirely revealed until a little later on. His whole life is like an adventure. He keeps appearing as a 35-year-old, a 43-year-old, a 31-year-old, in a time and place where he is supposed to be 6, or 13 or 25.

It is through Henry’s time travelling that Claire, a young girl of 6, gets to know her future husband, a Henry who has travelled from the future. An old man (in Claire’s eyes) tells her that he is now, in his own time, her husband. How does a young child comprehend that?

That is only the first of many a-rendezvous they will have; Claire grows older like how all of us do, but the Henry she meets isn’t always the same, always coming from a different time. And that’s just the beginning. Things start to get a little nerve-wrecking for Claire when she finally meets Henry in the here and now, because instead of Henry appearing at random intervals, he is now gone at random times, time traveling to the past.


After finishing the book, I was left thinking that the title could not have been better named. Because although half the story is told from Henry’s perspective, I felt that the real heart of the story perhaps belonged to Claire. Since the first time she met Henry, she has been made to wait. She waits for his next appearance, but not knowing how old he is going to be when that happens. She waits to meet him in the present. Then she waits as Henry disappears, sometimes for long spells, waiting for him to reappear in the present, worried that he might have gotten into some kind of trouble while in that other time and place.

It’s the kind of waiting that would drive a person mad. Mad with worry and frustration.


I have another confession: I chose to listen to the audiobook, because the wait at the library for the physical book was simply way too long for me. But in the end, I think it turned out for the better.

You see, as I was listening to the book, I couldn’t help but feel that my experience was made just that much better because the readers were really good. I felt the story did drone on for a tad too long, and I don’t think I would have appreciated the writing style much. But the reading was done very well. The audiobook bumped my rating up by a point, at least.

Rating: 4

For: Orange Prize Project


Note: I listened to the audiobook produced by HighBridge Company, the unabridged version, read by Christopher Burns and Maggi-Meg Reed.

Postscript: I have just realised that Claire is not Claire, but Clare. Hah.


§ 21 Responses to [AB] The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

  • aloi says:

    What a great book about time travel. I loved it too, though I don’t envy Claire at all (you said it, mad with worry! And having a husband that turns up naked in the weirdest places …)

  • Susan says:

    Michelle, I think this is the perfect choice for audio, and it sounds as if you enjoyed it. I haven’t listened to a lot of audiobooks, but good actors or readers certainly enhance the story.

    • Michelle says:

      This being my first audiobook, I think I might give audiobooks more light of day. But you’re right, the readers have to be really good. They help form the story somehow.

  • Aimee says:

    Ha! I wonder what the audio version of Her Fearful Symmetry would be like *shudders at the thought*

  • Bellezza says:

    I can’t imagine listening to this book on audio! I loved it, loved it, loved it, but it was hard to follow on the written page until I gave up trying to keep track of any sense of time. I want to read this again some day, because it touched me very deeply.

    By the way, your lovely present arrived yesterday, and I’m so thrilled that you sent me a token of your appreciation for the JLC3. It means a lot, Michelle, and I’ll enjoy looking at it all year on my desk. Blessings!

    • Michelle says:

      It’s always good to find a book that can touch you very deeply. I don’t think I’d want to try the actual book, simply because of the difficulty you experienced. But the audiobook did help me in that sense.

      Also, glad it reached you so soon. And I’m happy that you like it. =)

  • Vishy says:

    Interesting book and interesting review! I thought that the story wasn’t related to the title before I read your review – so many books these days have titles which are interesting but are not really related to the story. One of the ways I could see the story was that many times in families, fathers or husbands disappear for long periods of time, because they are going on business trips, their work demands their time, they are working in the armed forces or in the merchant navy or in another country and can come home only for holidays. Their wives and their families keep waiting for them hoping for a better and beautiful tomorrow. From reading your review, this book seems to me, to be an interpretation of this real-world situation. Did you feel that way too? What do you think?

    • Michelle says:

      I didn’t quite think of it that way. The plot was a lot more complex. But I guess the similarities to real-world situations can be easily identified. Like see mee’s comment below, she resonated with the plot because of something that happened to her in real life. So I guess, the plot could be something like a real-world situation with a couple of twists.

  • mee says:

    Okay this is gonna be hard for me to comment on, because TTTW is my favorite book of all time. I thought it was an extremely smart book. For such complex timeline, I could not find a plot hole. None. I thought the title was perfect, because even though the story is revolved around Henry, the Time Traveler, the timeline of the book follows his wife Clare. I’m not sure if audiobook is a better way to “read” it, because I imagine it could be more confusing. With book you can go back and forth and re-absorb. But at least it worked out for you.

    I don’t know about everyone else who loved the book, but for me the separation between Henry and Clare just touched me so deeply. I was too separated by my now-husband for a long time, so it hit close to home so to speak. It was smart, it was tragic, it was really the kind of stuff that I like. Anyway words could not describe how I loved the book, so I’m gonna stop now 😀

    • Michelle says:

      You’re definitely right about the title, there could be no better name for the book.

      I think it’s great that you loved this book, especially since you could relate to it so much. (It’s even hard for me to comment on your comment, with all the love that’s gushing through!)

      I think the audio worked for me because I’m especially bad with reading books that have different dates. I just skip that part of the page, all the time. And mostly, it’s the most important part, so I tend to miss a thing or two if the date is really significant. With the audio, I couldn’t ‘skip’ past it, and so the dates registered in my head.

      I have to say it would have been great if I could quote from the book, which is what text allows me to do. But still. =)

  • I total agree with you that the book for me was more about Claire, as Henry got to travel often going to seeing a younger Claire. Whilst the present Claire was left in the present worried, frightened and alone. And for this reason I felt close to Claire while I didn’t really connect with Henry at all. Great review, really tempted to go back to this book but listen to it instead of reading it now.

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks for dropping by. I’m not too sure about how you’d find the audio version after having read the book, but if you do try it out, I hope it won’t disappoint you.

  • farmlanebooks says:

    TTW is one of my all time favourites too. It is one of the only books that managed to move me to tears. I can’t imagine listening to it – I think that would have lessened the emotional impact for me. I loved the film (I had a little sob through it!) I think this is the most romantic books I’ve read. I’m sorry that you didn’t love it as much as some of us, but pleased that you did enjoy it to some extent.

    • Michelle says:

      I’ve yet to watch the film really. I was wondering if I should. If you had a little sob (which is always a sign of a good movie in my books!), maybe I should go give it a try too.

  • I’m glad you enjoyed this book, for, I know I’m in the minority, but I didn’t get on with it – at all.

    Maybe it worked better as an audiobook? I don’t know…

    • Michelle says:

      I think this book was one of those that you either like, or don’t like. I think it worked better as an audiobook, though I can’t really compare, having not read the book, can I?

  • chasing bawa says:

    I was actually surprised at how much I liked the book as I wasn’t expecting too (what with all the hype, and also because I wasn’t sure whether it would work.) But Audrey Niffeneger proved me wrong! I can’t wait to read her next book.

  • most of the time i listen to audiobooks while surfing the net, i love to multitask he he :

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