Ichabod is itchy

November 4, 2006

The time traveller’s wife

Filed under: literature — by ichabodisitchy @ 6:35 pm

Spoiler alert.

I read this book by Audrey Niffenegger last week and I must admit I was a little disappointed.

I thought the idea behind the book was quite interesting– about a man (Henry) with a genetic disorder that makes him jump around in time uncontrolledly, and his wife (Clare). Clare first meets Henry when she’s 6 (whilst he’s time travelling). Henry first meets Clare in his late twenties (in real-time). The book is essentially a love story. Clare grows up knowing a 40-odd year old Henry who knows all about her, falls in love with him and then waits to catch up with him in real time. Henry meanwhile is a bit of a mess- drinking, sleeping with lots of women etc etc. When Clare finds him, the tables are turned– she knows all about him and he slowly finds his feet and falls in love with her.

Now I’ll tell you what I found so frustrating. Poor Clare sits around her whole life waiting for Henry to appear. When she’s a kid she sits around waiting for him to turn up on one of his visits. When the visits stop she sits around waiting to find him for the first time in real time. Then she sits around waiting for all the days that Henry’s not time-travelling. Waiting, waiting, waiting. While lucky Henry is off having a laugh, seducing women — seducing Clare (I found it all a bit sordid when he goes back in his early-40s for Clare’s ‘first time’ when she’s only 17).

And then (this is the spoiler) when Henry finally dies, he leaves a letter for Clare saying that he saw her once when he was time travelling and she was an old old woman. So not enough that Clare has sat around waiting her whole life for this one man. Even after he’s dead she then sits around waiting (until she’s 82!) for that one moment when she’ll see him again.

Maybe I’m just too feminist. It just really grated.



  1. This book got “mixed” reviews when it came out. It was really heavily promoted. I was a bit dubious about it then so didn’t buy it– don’t think I will bother now.

    Comment by Web editor — November 5, 2006 @ 9:21 pm |Reply

  2. now this I find interesting – people are obviously buying this book in droves, but it sounds awful, and more importantly, everyone I know who has read it (3 people, all women) were deeply annoyed by it. So why is it selling so well?

    Comment by James — November 6, 2006 @ 9:50 am |Reply

  3. I liked it when I began reading it but by the end I got a bit confused. I also thought it was too long. And you’re right – why should Clare have to sit around waiting for this guy all her life?

    Comment by Marie — November 6, 2006 @ 10:07 am |Reply

  4. From my (male) perspective, I thought this was a wonderful book. Quite possibly I’m a complete softy. But I didn’t feel that the female character was particularly passive; she seemed, if I recall correctly, to love Henry, and she tried to be a constant in his life – which was effortful and difficult. I thought she was a bit of a heroine, really.

    Anyway, back to my Mills and Boon…


    Comment by Ian Hocking — November 10, 2006 @ 9:51 am |Reply

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