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The Time Traveler's Wife - Narrative structure / Henry and Clare - SPOILERS!

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Hi

I felt exactly as you did. I did not like the structure of the book - the different narratives and the jumping about between ages.

I'm not into Sci Fi either and I could not suspend disbelief enough for the time travel to work. Also I might be wrong but didn't this chrono -thingy appear in 'The Eyre affair' by Jasper Fforde. Tuesday's father time travelled. That book was SUCH a fantasy I could enjoy it. This one seems to be neither one thing or another.

More later when I'm certain others have read it. There are some good parts (IMO) so I don't want to spoil it.

Willow

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I don't understand why people find it so hard to suspend disbelief - for many people part of the joy of reading a novel is escaping to a different world where different things are possible? Who wants to read stuff that can actually happen ALL the time? Ok, the concept doesn't stand up if you pick it to bits, but where's the fun in that?! I can think of tons more plots of classic novels that, on close analysis fall apart as badly as the time travel concept! However I do think she invites criticism by only half heartedly attempting to explain it, perhaps it would have been better left unexplained, I'm not too sure. I just don't understand what the problem is with suspending disbelief every now and then just to enjoy a novel?

 

Also, I liked the dual narrative - I think it was necessary to see the two sides of the story and this was an effective way of doing it. It meant we got to see how the time travel was affecting both Claire and Henry, not just a one-sided opinion.

 

The jumping about was a little confusing sometimes, but I think it was quite a clever plot device because it gave you little snippets of what might happen and made me want to keep reading to find out. However if you don't like this style of writing in general you're not going to like this book!

 

I'm not trying to rubbish the people that didn't like it (although I really enjoyed it) but come on, come up with a better reason than 'I couldn't suspend disbelief' - have a bit of imagination!

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I've just noticed Willow's point on it's neither one thing or another - neither fantasy or reality and that is definitely true - but I think if it had been pure fantasy I wouldn't have connected so much with it - I think the juxtaposition of the realistic surroundings and relationships with the concept of time travel and it's effects on this world made the novel quite touching, and IMO an extremely original twist on the classic love story.

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Hi

 

Well here goes - might be spoilers but you've asked me to say why I didn't enjoy this book!!!

 

Firstly I could not suspend disbelief for THIS book not in my reading in general. I think this was because I just did not feel this book was well enough written to engage me or make me care about the characters. To be honest I found the two main characters quite repellant. They seemed so hard and selfish that I had no time for them. All the stuff about the miscarriages didn't even get to me. This writer did not seem able to cause me to have any empathy with Henry and Claire. I found them both too self absorbed. Now you might say so would anyone be if they had all this time travel to contend with, but THAT'S JUST IT - the time travel is so absurd that the whole novel falls down for me because everything in their relationship hinges on it and I just didn't care what happened to them.

 

The part of the novel I did find moving was the description of the relationship of Henry with his parents and them with each other. I'm trying to analyse why that would be and I think it is because we get to know a bit more about those characters. I can't honestly feel I know anything much about Henry and Claires day to day life but I know about his parents.

 

The minor characters of the Korean couple held my interest but it was just Henry and Claire that irritated me. As for it being a great love story forget it I just thought they deserved each other.

 

But we are all different and sorry if this treads on a few dreams. It's interesting that we were equally split in our face to face group on this book and had a real humdinger of an argument.

 

Willow

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Hi again

 

I've been really thinking about why I didn't like Henry. It could be because sometimes because of the age gaps caused by the time travel he appears as quite paternalistic towards Claire. This maybe means I could never feel their relationship was on an equal footing. She never seemed an independent woman living with a contemporary. I know from my personal beliefs that I find these paternalistic marriages quite off putting as I believe they disempower women by keeping them as 'little girls'. Was this happening to Claire or was it just because of the scenes with Henry when she was a child that makes me think this?

 

Willow

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I have created a new thread, taking a number of posts from First Impressions. So if Seraphina and willow and others wish to carry on discussing the book having already finished it, they can, as the new title contains the word 'Spoilers' to warn off anyone who is still reading. The other thread can now do exactly what it says on the tin, and concentrate on First Impressions.

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Having already finished the book, This is the one and only time i probably (hopefully) will say that in my opinion it would probably be better as a film than a really good read.

Nigel. :(:eek:

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it's not really about time travel to me.. i think i could find much more interesting things to do than get involved with a little girl.. and my self? what about conflict of meeting ones self.

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it uses the idea of immortallity to cover the history of the City of New York for several centuries.. but in that case it works very well, and is a very interesting book..

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Hi

 

I totally missed the idea of immortality when I read it but yes it is there. It will die eventually I guess because I suppose Henry will have 'used up' all the instances of future travel he did before he really died!!!

 

Can you explain about the history of New York point a bit more because I think I missed that as well!

 

Willow

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I've just finished reading and I found this an enjoyable and easy read.

 

The time travel thing was a little confusing and at times I found myself turning back a couple of pages to check on dates but other than that it was fine.

 

Like Willow, I found the paternalistic aspects of Henry and Claire's relationship a bit off-putting - specially early on in the book - however, as the book progressed and we lived through the Henry/Claire present I felt it became apparent why Henry had been travelling back to Claire's childhood.

 

Beachmama implies that Henry uses his timetravel to get involved with Claire but I never got the impression that Henry planned his timetravel or used it for a particular purpose. Only that he sometimes took advantage of the knowledge that his affliction/ability gave him or the situation that it put him in.

 

............as for suspending belief..........its fiction.

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At first glance this wouldn't have been a book I would read, simply because of the words "Time Traveler's" in the title. I don't read sci-fi because I just can't understand it, which makes me think readers of sci-fi are very smart people. The funny thing is that I absolutely can suspend disbelief when reading or watching movies, so things that may have been ridiculous didn't really bother me.

 

I developed an affection for both Clare and Henry and practically had the book in one hand at all times so I could read about when they met again, and would they stay together and what would become of Henry. I also enjoyed the 'supporting cast' EXCEPT for Clare's friend's boyfriend. I can't remember his name.

 

I also thought this was more a love story than a time-travel book, but I did enjoy both elements of it. I guess sometimes I like my stories to be a little on the unbelievable side.

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Fascinated by how differently we all see this book. I read it a couple of months ago.

 

I thought the opposite to Willow in terms of the paternalistic relationship of Clare and Henry and felt that Clare was the grown up in the relationship.

 

She was the safe place that Henry always came back to.

 

For me the most poignant part of the book was Henry teaching his daughter the tricks of the trade. Loved the way when Henry is in the museum and Clare rushes down she misses him - it would have been so easy to have them meet there and the author avoids it.

 

Strangest quirk for me is the way all Henry's clothes disappear when he time travels.

 

Thought the ending was interesting. Clare in the room by herself. Interesting to see if at some stage the author comes back and fills in the gap. From my reading Clare did not just sit around waiting for him - after all this is a woman who had it off with one of his best friends during one of his absences.

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I have just finished the book and really loved it. Sometimes I did find myself confused by the jumping around in time, and I did have moments where I thought how convenient for Henry to appear somewhere in particular. But all in all I loved it. I was glad Clare and Henry were not perfect, I thought it made them all the more real.

 

I agree with Seraphina about how good it was to get little snippets of what was to come.

 

Can't wait to discuss this book more with you all :)

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Finished it over Easter. This is a book that I will remember for many years to come. I found the whole thing absolutely fascinating. As this thread is supposed to be about the narrative structure, I'll give my views on that first up.

 

First, the switching between Henry and Clare as narrators added to the overall feel of the book. Without this particular device, the story would not have worked as well. The most obvious example, the death of Henry, was visited three times - from Clare's perspective, from Henry's (as an observer) and again from Henry's as participant. Brilliantly done, in my view, and if you tried writing it as a third party, it simply wouldn't work. Whilst I agree that the book would make an excellent film, this aspect needs careful handling on a screenplay.

 

Then there was the way that the story was told in the present tense. To be honest, I don't normally enjoy this way of story-telling, but in TTW, I didn't notice it after the first 50 or so pages.

 

And finally, the apparently random order in which the story was told. I have no problem with this - I think that a chronological telling (from either H's or C's point of view) would not have worked as well. The author was able to drop hints at future (or past) events and add to the mystery and suspense - telling the story in a conventional sequence would have lost some of this. It's hardly the first book to withhold past events, after all.

 

Just to touch on one other aspect - the main characters. I felt huge empathy for both Henry and Clare. I'm surprised that some of you found his "paternalistic" attitude towards Clare in some sequences to be an issue. Er - what would you rather he had done? I thought he showed great self-control (although, as was pointed out in the book, this was made easier by the fact that he was enjoying the benefit of an adult relationship with Clare in the "present" whilst visiting her as a child in the "past"). OK, he was a bit of a rogue in some ways, but given his affliction, I think he handled his life rather well!

 

I can understand why some folks would have found it difficult or even irritating, but I really enjoyed it. One of the most memorable books I have read for a long time.

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Thanks MFJ and all you others, I was just beginning to think that I was the only one who really liked this!

 

I also had a lot of empathy for both Henry and Claire, but they've had such negative reviews from most people that I was considering going back and rereading just in case I'd missed something! I'd be really interested to know exactly why so many of you found Henry and Claire so offensive? I thought Henry dealt well with his condition on the whole, a bit of a rogue, but a lot of it couldn't really be helped! He wasn't a bad person. Claire showed loyalty and love for her future husband in refusing any other prospective boyfriends to the point of being labelled a lesbian by her friends!

 

I think Henry showed a lot of respect for Claire as a woman in the level of self control he was able to exercise when she was trying to tempt him. I can imagine it must be very hard for him to see a young, nubile version of his wife to be clearly gagging for it and not to give in!

 

Someone made a comment (maybe on another thread, not sure) about Henry's stealing and running about naked - well it was hardly his fault! What would you suggest he do to get clothes, he's naked with no money!

:eek:

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I assume that this is a thread to talk about the novel as a whole, it therefore contains spoilers, you have been warned...

 

I would have said that I loved this book, only however if I had stopped reading it three quarters through, just before the miscarriages started to happen. This is because they were just so weird, I couldn't understand if the description of the gasping embryo on the bed was supposed to be real or in Claire’s head, the same with the ‘little monster’ she held in her hands. Was there really a grave of embryos in the garden? I don’t wish to be insensitive but a miscarriage at such an early stage would not produce a recognisable baby. Yes it was described as a ‘little monster’ but this suggests that something is visible, something I find hard to believe. I suppose coming from a medical background I was more critical of this. It unfortunately ruined the book for me because it just seemed so strange, time travelling men I can except, gasping embryos I can not!

 

One of the reasons I was enjoying the book until this point was how real the characters felt, Clare describing that her "c*** hurts" was therefore very shocking, what women uses that word to describe herself?? This ruined the believably of the character.

 

I also thought that the time travel was best left unexplained, this was not the main interest of the book which was instead the relationship between Claire and Henry (for some of us anyway!) I was happy to except that he time travelled, what I didn't like was the unnecessary need of Niffenegger to make it scientifically plausible by throwing in some lame genetic explanation!

 

Apart from that I really enjoyed it!! The reason I sound negative is because I was loving the book, I thought it was shaping up to be one of my favourites and then it went wrong and I was bitterly disappointed.

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Have finished the book and have to say that I really enjoyed it. The narrative style actually made me like it more than I think I would have if it was just a straight story (I'm not big on romance stories). I thought that Clare, as an adult, showed great strenghth of character (except maybe when she got so obsessed about having a baby). I had a lot of sympathy for Henry - knowing things that are coming and not being able to change them or even talk about them must have been Hell.

 

One other aspect that got to me - the details of life and FOOD! Made me sort of homesick - for saltine crackers and Hershey chocolate bars and Dairy Queen ice cream and all the different ethnic foods! :P

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I finished the book a few days ago. Normally I would rush onto my next book, but this was one of those story's that is going to linger for a long time.

 

I felt the narrative style, jumping back and forth between different times and the two main characters was intrinsic to the story. It helped to build the tension leading upto Henry's death. I think quite early on in the story, you get the feeling something bad will happen, and I wasn't too sure whether it would be Henry or Clare that it would happen to. Though I suppose it was probably going to be Henry with all the unpredictable situations he was always being dropped into.

 

I thought all the characters in the book has some redeeming qualities (see Gomez thread). Initially Richard, Henry's father was a character I couldn't warm to, it seemed a tragic waste of his life and talent to drink it away. I suppose that this was another example of the undying love that seems to be the strongest theme in book.

 

In the First Impressions thread, I had said that I didn't think this had a very Sci-Fi feel to it, but this increased in the last half after the birth of their daughter. I still wouldn't call this a sci-fi book though.

 

Well, before I end up writing an essay, basically I loved this book and the author will have to do well to follow it up.

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I finished the book about a week ago. I really enjoyed this read. With regard to the structure of the book and the narrative I agree with one the other posts that the style of writing was used brilliantly to reflect the story. Whilst reading I constantly had to flick back and check on dates and ages and what the characters where up to in the past, present or future. It gave you a feel for how the characters were living their lives. I tend to flick back with books in any case to remember parts or suss out plots so this book didn't bother me in that respect if anything it got me more involved.

 

With regard to the characters - I could understand Henry's position throughout but occassionally couldn't understand Clare's - I found it hard to understand why a young girl - esp a teenager- would fancy Henry as the age gap was quite large on some occasions. At times Henry would be older than her father. I could understand her loving him but not desiring him.

 

Clare's character annoyed me several times - as previous posts have said I too was shocked at the use of the word "C***". It did not sit with her character to use it and she didnt use swear words enormously and it is so offensive to most women. I also found her quite selfish at times - my main example is the whole Gomez thing. Charisse was supposed to be her bestfriend who was always there when Henry was away and who she lived with at University - yet that did not prevent her from sleeping with her boyfriend. When Clare was single before Present Henry came into her life - you can almost forgive her for the first time but the second time was pure selfishness. She was only thinking of herself. Henry had been dead 2 years so she couldn't have been confused with grief to the extent that she had no control. I was really mad at that part and yes I did not like Gomez very much for it either - I was glad that he got hurt by her calling him Henry. I was shocked that the next page was Charisse and Clare shopping together.

 

I've seen that other people have said that they can't understand why he wasted his time going back to visit Clare - my understanding was that we were only being told about those times but that he travelled a lot more to other places and times and those were the times he had to fight and steal and run.

 

I really liked the story even though it made be mad at places but I think that shows it is a good book if it can do that.

 

Willow - I think you didn't realise that Beachmama was talking about a different book when she talked about mortality and New York.

 

Last 5 reads:

 

The Time Traveller's Wife

Tuesdays with Morrie

Closer (The play)

Veronika Decides to Die

Edge of reason (Bridget Jones)

 

Currently reading: The Great Gatsby

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I had no problem with the narrative structure, sometimes my eye swept over the date and ages, or who was speaking and I would have to flick back to check where and when I was.

I loved the descriptions of the food, books and art - but then I ama very visual reader, these all created for me a picture of what was happening. Having said that I could never picture Clare and Henry, Clare was a very pale lady seen in profile with gorgeous flowing red hair and Henry was never filled in. Alba however was a perfect little impression. Gomez always had long black hair and was a goth in my head, despite knowing his hair was dyed white.

 

I loved that Henry travelled back to Clare as a child, he seemed to create another stability in her world, which she had previously only got from the servents. You imagine, from the small snippets you are shown when Henry visits the family home, that she had a fairly insecure childhood, lots of money but not much emotional security. Henry provides that. He creates a security, one day in the future she will be loved and cherished. Someone said she couldn't see how a teenage Clare could fancy Henry, yet most teenage girls fancy their teachers or older actors, I was rather taken with George Clooney by 14, and had a thing for Gary Linneker :o was I was 8, its part of growing up. Better than a spotty, over eager teenage boy.

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I've just finished reading this book and was interested to read people's comments of this book.

A lot has been said about the way that the book goes back and forth in time and I think that if you have the main character as a time traveller, what do you expect really? That's what makes this book so different.

Also in a weird kind of a way, even though the story was jumping back and forth in time, I found that as you got used to the idea of the time travelling, the story took on a sort of linear sequence of events, as in the progression of Claire and Henry's relationship.

 

At the end of the book, when Claire waits all that time for Henry, you kind of wonder was it all worth the wait? Although in the book somewhere the concept of loving someone no matter how short time is with them, is better than not loving them at all. I suppose this was just illustrating the point.

 

Also I like the issues that the book raises about disability. As a person with a disability myself, I thought that the way the book dealt with issues of identity, dealing with relationships and the implications with having children was interesting. It helped me relate to the characters.

 

This book has flaws, but I really enjoyed reading it.

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    • By Adrian
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