Audrey Niffenegger’s masterpiece takes you back to the age-old puzzle of time travel once again, in a remarkably sensitive way.
Before most of you turn your noses up at the title and come to the conclusion that the book is an old wife’s tale (pun unintended), I want to clarify that if you do so then you’ll miss out on a pretty interesting and entrancing read. I was captivated by the story of The Time Traveler’s Wife, even before I’d read it. Time traveling has always fascinated me, and I’ve spent quite a lot time trying to figure it out. I feel it is quite a feat to write a book on the topic since so many facts and incidents have to be in harmony with each other. But the author, Audrey Niffenegger makes it look so effortless. As the book progress, she peels each layer to reveal something new and more extraordinary and in the end, all the parts fit like a perfect jigsaw puzzle.
The synopsis sounded pretty bizarre and I was all set for a thrilling sci-fi story. Claire Abshire first meets Henry DeTamble when she is six years old and he’s 36, but he’s really only eight years older than she is. While when Henry meets Claire for the first time, he’s 28 and she is 20. He has no idea who she is and why she is convinced that they are going to get married in the future. This is because Henry DeTamble is a time traveler. A genetic mutation causes him to spontaneously travel through time, disappearing from view, leaving behind his clothes and possessions, and arriving naked in another time and another place.
The book is essentially a love story, but like all great love stories it is not devoid of trials and struggles. Time traveling is not something Henry can control and therefore enjoy. What he really wants is to be home and safe besides Claire. Instead he is often catapulted to the past or present and has to fend for himself there. When he first meets six year old Claire, he has just left her 28 year old self behind. Over the years, he visits Claire numerous times and is present for all the significant moments in her life. Claire grows up knowing that Henry is going to be her future husband, while Henry keeps going back in the past to make Claire aware of that. It is his future that really torments him, as he struggles to balance his time traveling while trying to make a secure and comfortable life with his wife at the same time. Claire on the other hand must endure long periods of emptiness while Henry is time traveling and learn to expect his unexpected disappearances.
This novel raises many pertinent questions like whether we are just pawns in fate’s twisted plan or if our one true love actually exists? This is one of those books that you read in one go, that you totally immerse yourself into. In the end, it envelopes you with a profound sense of sadness and yet you’re just glad to have read it because it is probably the most honest and touching story you’ve read in a while. I’d recommend it to anyone along with a box of tissues for all the sensitive readers.
– Aditi Kotwal