Book review

Despite the flat characters, the idea of this novel is quite fascinating, and reading about other’s love and sufferings is always interesting. I’d say this book grabs your interest once you get the idea of the timetraveling. Ô.o : ) : )

Mind Map

The mind map of Henry DeTamble.

Character Analysis

Imagine suddenly finding yourself in a different place, a different time than where you were, clad naked in the middle of a dark alley, on someone’s doorstep, or shivering ankle-deep in snow. Imagine not knowing what to do, how long it will continue, or if you’ll even ever get back home.

This is Henry DeTamble’s life as Audrey Niffenegger portrays it in her novel The Time Traveler’s Wife. Henry is, as later called, a chrono-displaced person, someone who suddenly gets pulled to their past or rarely to their future.

Henry’s time-travelling started when he was only a child, in an accident where his mother died but Henry survived due to his short timetravel to the moment five minutes ago. This incident affects the rest of Henry’s life in different ways, as he himself and even his own father blame him, on some level, for staying alive while his mother had to die. The death of his mother is also one of the turning points in Henry’s life, a painful point where he returns over and over again, intentionally or not.

The death of his mother is one of the reasons for Henry to call his ability to time travel a curse as he sometimes thinks it would have been better if he would have just died alongside his mother, quickly though grotesquely. Appearing naked out of thin air to places from time to time is rather dangerous, as anything might happen; hypothermia, drowning, beating up, getting arrested… This has led Henry to do almost anything he can to survive, stealing and beating people up for clothes, and lying. It seems the only things he hasn’t done is rape and murder. But still, only running is his sole insurance from being caught every time he time travels and also a way for him to try staying in the present.

“If anything ever happens to my feet, you might as well shoot me,” said Henry once, in one sentence describing the value he puts into being able to run.

Another thing keeping him in the present is Clare. Henry and Clare’s relationship isn’t one of the normal ones as they met when he was thirty-six and she six and got married when Henry was thirty and Clare twenty-two. This makes it so that Henry, age twenty-eight, knows nothing of Clare when they meet ‘for real’, whereas Clare knows only of Henry at the age around thirty-six.

This fact causes rather quirky jealousy, as Henry envies his older self for knowing Clare, for being something so much more than he, an alcoholic young man with no destination whatsoever, is. Henry even feels angry at some point at Clare for fancying his older self more than the Henry she has right there right now.

But as the story of Henry and Clare goes on, the jealousy Henry felt towards himself slowly fades away as the two of them want to concentrate on the time they have together. Trying to build up their life together while Henry disappears once in a while is hard, but somehow they manage.

Reading about Henry at almost all possible ages all in one book gives the feeling that he is a complex character, though it is only the illusion of him acting in different ways at different ages. Also, the fact that once in a while he meets himself and the two Henrys act like brothers, or friends, both different in their own ways but just the same once you scratch the surface, makes the reader think about just how bizarre the scene is.

Does Henry experience growth of any sort? That is hard to say. Maybe on some level he does, as before he met Clare he was drowning his troubles in alcohol, sleeping around and having problems in particular with his life. Later on he has cleaned his life style, but when did that happen? The book does not give more detailed information about Henry maturing into the caring husband he is later on, even though the change from Henry to “the me of my future” as he calls it, is its own short chapter by the name Turning Point.

All in all, towards the end Henry’s character gets more interesting as the tragedies he suffers grab the attention and sympathy of the reader, although while reading the loss Henry undergoes, one would love to hit him for losing all interest in life. And the scene in the Meadow, where Henry has accepted his fate, is hard to get on the first read, but once you start to realise what happens you can only feel somewhat sorry for him…

Challenging Words

cripple – vammainen, vammauttaa

domesticity – kesytys

fetus – sikiö

gimp – (halventava, slangi) vammainen

incandescent – hehkuva, valkohehkuinen

indulgence – hemmottelu

insignia – arvomerkki, tunnus

pejorative – halventava

sedate – rauhallinen

mussel – simpukka


Niffenegger, Audrey. 2004. The Timetraveler’s Wife. London : Jonathan Cape