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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of Henry DeTamble, a time traveller due to a rare genetic condition, and Claire Abshire, his lover and wife who has to bear the brunt of his absence and the worry that goes along with it. The story is not straightforward, not linear; it bounces between past and present in a way that is artful and throughly thought out.
If any novel can be called flawless, it's probably this one (at least by my standards). It has beautiful writing that evokes so many emotions, both painful and heart-warming. You can feel the yearning of the characters, the pain they feel when they are apart and their passion when they are together.
It's a love story, but it feels real and authentic (despite the otherworldly aspects of the novel). It doesn't feel cheesy or contrived in the way that some romantic novels can... I'll refrain from being snobby, but I bet you can guess who I'm thinking of!
The story tells of the kind of love that every romantic dreams of, yet would be hard-pressed to choose because pain is just as much a part of their relationship as passion is. The pain of being separated and having no control over the things that most people take for granted are only two of the reasons that their relationship isn't a picnic. Yet neither of the two characters would ever choose a different path; it is fate.
The novel explores freedom of choice and destiny. Although the main character is a time traveler, he cannot change what happens in the past (contrary to any time traveler movie I've ever seen!). There's no worry here about messing up what will happen in the future - it is more of a concern that the time traveller, Henry, feels stuck in time. Are his actions, or anyone's, really a choice? Is everything predestined? I love this story because it isn't just a love story, it's a thoughtful discussion of free will, self, and relationships.
Both characters are very real. Henry and Claire have flaws. Henry would be the first to admit he isn't perfect. At times in his life (before he met Claire) he was lost and rough around the edges, bordering on being an alcoholic and sex addict in order to cope with his unusual life. I would have liked to see more on how he changed into the kind, gentlemanly, "older" Henry who Claire falls in love with. Surely, it is Claire's sweet and supportive influence, but more of those moments would have been welcomed. However, Niffenegger does a good job of making numerous references to the patience Claire needs to have whilst Henry becomes the man she knows so well.
I wasn't at all put off by the sex scenes in the novel, but no doubt some people might be, so fair warning! I didn't feel they were indecent, but instead believe they were an important part of the story: not only a vital part of both Henry and Claire's relationship with each other (just as sex often is in real life), but also important to Henry's time traveling and how he stayed connected to his current place in time.
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I can't say something about the book without briefly mentioning the travesty of a movie they made of it. It lacked the depth and emotion of the book in so many ways, but primarily in the portrayal of Henry's character (...that being said I adore Rachel McAdams and thought she was a lovely Claire!). If you watched the movie only to be put off of the book, or even if you thought the movie was great, the book is so much better. It is so much warmer and more detailed and definitely worth the read.