marginalia || The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

Since a lot of you have reasonable cause to believe that I have a personal vendetta against the author [for the record, NO], I am just to say it: I finally read Audrey Niffenegger‘s The Time Traveler’s Wife–and I didn’t like it so much. Meh. I have tried to read this book three times, and my interest and momentum flagged each of those three times. Then, I’d just decided to quit bitchin’ and just read the damned thing. And then, book in my lap, I came across Trish’s review. Then, I decided–again–to quit bitchin’ and just read the damned thing.

And so I read it. Hallelujah. So. Following is the short entry from my notebook:

Am at page 116. I am bored. Slow, dragging. But I’m curious. I am liking the scenes when Henry meets Henry. And I do admire Niffenegger, when I think about how the behind-the-scenes work must have seemed: how she plotted, how she tried to seamlessly weave in all these disparate elements (made even harder with the time-jumping). I wonder if she used index cards. Or Post-it notes, with a pale pink for Clare and a bright yellow for Henry. Maybe she wrote all this chronologically, and just messed it up later on. Maybe, as she wrote the novel the way we’re reading it now, she made shit up as she went along and tacked reminders about subplots. Computing for dates and ages.

Ah, time travel. Something is nagging at me with the whole thing. There’s a hole somewhere. A feeling that there’s something not quite right.

Augh. All this is leading to somewhere that hints at an appalling laziness of the author—is that the solution you’ve come up with, Niffenegger? I want to put it down, but gah, I might as well get it over and done with. A pinch of pages left.

Okay. Done. Didn’t care for the characters at all. They had their moments, but I wasn’t invested in them. Why did I read this again? Why did I keep reading it? Because I did enjoy some parts of it. Mainly how the couple would meet through time and all that jazz. But, well. Meh. I mean, that was an awesome premise. And great potential for Best Love Story Evahr. But Niffenegger slipped somehow. There was that occasionally crassness, a crudeness. A dispassion. I do not care for Henry and Clare. I do not care for Henry and Clare at all.

Two-ish hours later: This didn’t leave a nice feeling. Not the book, but the experience of the book. Thinking about it, thinking about how I’d write about it—just this creepiness stole over me. Augh. Disquieting. And not the good kind of disquiet, not the romantic kind, not the kind you write poems for. Bah.

That last paragraph? I stand by it. I can’t talk about this book because: either 1) it doesn’t inspire me to talk about it, 2) I feel like something smarmy had happened to me and to talk about it would be to relive it, 3) there are no words.

A note on the picture: I took that a year ago, when I was still enamored by the renewed hype brought by the movie version. I have a pretty, dilapidated window sill. Huzzah.

16 thoughts on “marginalia || The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

  1. Terrific, honest review. I found this to be a really dark book, but I did like it better than you seemed to, Sasha. I’ll admit I partially liked it because I lived not far from the Newberry Library in Chicago at the time I read it, and really felt in the midst of it all. But it had this gloom about it, because I just knew it’d never work out.

    I often get a bit depressed in time travels, wondering how it will work. Same with ghost stories with romance elements. It’s a conundrum I’m always trying to crack.

    As an aside, Nifengger had this line in the book that I always remember, where Henry and Henry are interacting…and she has Henry say something like, “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not gay.” So hilarious and astute, because you know if guys COULD, they would.

    1. Thanks, Beth. I like my time travel–mostly because it’s an exercise in plotting for authors, and I’m always curious as to how minds work. I have a particular soft spot for them in romance novels. [If you don’t mind my saying, the complexity of Daring Time was one of the many reasons as to why I enjoyed it.] I’ve read a book that was a time-travel romance, as well as a ghost story. I wasn’t very happy by the book’s end. :|

      And that “I’m not gay” scene–I admit that I blinked a couple of times, thinking, “Were they doing what I think they were doing?” That was a strange moment for me, haha. Maybe I could take an informal survey among guy friends and pose this situation. :p

  2. I am with you on this one Sasha – read it last year after several failed attempts and thought it was overhyped. I hated the characters and thought the book could have easily been slimmed down if Niffenegger had trimmed out all the mundane (unnecessary) details. I know lots of people love this one, but… well, lots of people love Twilight and I can’t get behind that either!

    1. So many people swear by this book–and I did want to like it, because the premise was so intriguing, and I wanted her to pull it off. I don’t think I even verbalized properly how unsatisfied this left me. I mean, I hardly tried, I didn’t want to. And I think that’s enough of a statement towards a book, haha.

      True, so many unnecessary details. I could see where she was going, but her momentum slipped, or maybe she got buried in her index cards? The novel needed a lot of tightening, some ruthless trimming.

  3. I loved how you typed up your reading notes! I love that you take notes while you read. I wish I had the patience to do that…hmm…now you’ve got me wondering if it’s something I *could* do!

    High five for being TTW meh-ers!

    1. High-five! :) And I linked to your post mostly because the brevity of my notes basically meant, “Sasha is lazeh–I completely agree with Trish over there.” :] Re the note-taking, it’s been a habit for years now, left over from Literature and Creative Writing classes, haha. I’m less neurotic about it now, of course, and there’s this odd pride in leafing through my little notebook, thinking, “Man, I make sense,” hahaha. :)

  4. I was hugely disappointed with this the first time, but re-read it (just to be polite ) when a good reading friend had raved for the countless time and despite my reluctance we ended up having a fantastic conversation about it afterwards which completely changed my opinion about the book. I still wouldn’t count it as a favourite but, as you said, I admired the work behind it, which was much more intricate than I’d noticed.

    1. Yes, I’ve felt that sometimes–had such a solid Meh attitude about a book, and then a conversation provokes me into reconsidering that. So, yeah, I do get it when people review this and give it a great grade. But based on my one reading, it didn’t do much, haha. I’ll always admire Niffenegger’s planning–the Post-its image can’t be banished from my head.

    1. This had its moments, but it didn’t rock my world the way it did a lot of other people’s. Oh, btw, I was thinking about you at some parts of the book, because I kept feeling that the character’s “Clare” was spelled wrong, haha.

  5. I found this book to be a fast read but very unsatisfying, like fast food. You’re right, there was something a bit unsettling and “smarmy” about it.

    1. When I did finally pick it up and stuck with it, it proved to be a fast read. And thank you for getting the “smarmy” quip. I can’t explain it — it’s not directly because of the content or the form, but the experience. It was just, well, SMARMY, haha.


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