My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**** WARNING: This review contain’s spoilers ****
People rave about this book. I have had friend after friend tell me how much I will love it. I’ve yet to find anyone who could escape its emotional claws.
Yet, for the first 200 pages I was left pretty much cold. I’m not saying I hated it, it was fine… but I wasn’t grabbed by it as I so often am by a novel. I wasn’t excited at the prospect of reading, I didn’t stay up past my bedtime just to finish a chapter.
I didn’t cry.
But then, suddenly, something happened. And I think it was Henry’s Dad that did it. His character cemented. It grounded Henry. It gave him context and humanity and a sense of palpable realness. The impact broke the floodgates. Suddenly I was sobbing on a packed commuter train. And I thought: this is it! I’ve cracked this novel!
And then it went back to meh, and I was gutted.
I think it was the characters that caused the biggest stumbling block; I couldn’t really empathise with either of them. Clare I liked fine, but never felt that I would be friends with, if we met. I could neither share her world view nor feel her pain. She never felt whole to me as a person.
Henry, I actively disliked. I could see why he was the way he was, and I couldn’t for the life of me see what he could do about it… but something about him seemed so pathetic. I felt as though he was unwilling to make things better, as though for all his protestations, he was actually content to let himself get pulled in and out of time, as if he enjoyed the distratcion and the escape, as if he felt he had a valid excuse for any behaviour as long as he could blame his past, present and future all at once. It was Alba who confirmed this for me – her ability, not to stop the travelling, but to sometimes control it somehow. And her acceptance and enjoyment of it. Maybe this changes. Maybe she will spend an unfulfilled lifetime trying to reach a mother who is preoccupied with waiting; just waiting. Maybe she will revisit her father’s death again and again until it breaks her too.
Interestingly, it was once Alba arrived on the scene that things really clicked into place for me. From the first time we met her, a ten year old girl at the museum, I adored her. I felt she had all the qualities her parents were missing, and a degree of understanding that the entirety of her world simply hadn’t. She was the character that finally clutched my heartstrings and dragged me into their story, and I spent much of the remainder of the book in floods of tears. When I finally finished I didn’t quite know what to do with myself, I felt so emotionally exhausted by her loss.
Overall, The Time Traveler’s Wife I struggled to enjoy. The time traveler’s daughter was a different matter altogether.