Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, is a bestseller and a favorite for bookclubs. Take a look at an interview with the author where Niffenegger shares her thoughts on her book.
I read it with my local book club and an on-line book club and would like to share some of their comments with you. There was a lot of discussion about Henry being an unpleasant or dislikeable character. In his defense, Jan wrote:
"One of the most powerful things for me about Henry is his inability to control his comings and goings. It is as if he experiences an extreme form of fate; incidentally not unlike the Greek conception -- I loved Niffennegger's quote at the very end from the Odyssey. The fact that he remained sane, and learned to live with his affliction, was amazing; I think I would have been tempted earlier to win the lottery, or otherwise try to use my condition more to affect my life, or even considered suicide when things were really out of hand. I think it is an important choice by the writer that he didn't, but lived within the confines of his condition (including his long and agonizing injuries towards the end.)"
And Margy wrote another explanation for his behavior:
"As to comments about Henry not being a very nice guy. I think you have to take the approach, much in the way that the book does, that if a person has a disability, then there are going to be other issues as a result of that disability. For example, a child with autism or ADHD isn’t always able to meet behavior expectations in a classroom. The child is labeled as a trouble maker instead of the adults understanding that the behavior may be result of the disability. If you accept the time traveling as a disability, then Henry is just trying to survive, much in the same way that a child with disabilities tries to survive in the classroom. It isn’t always pretty picture. It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be accountability for the actions, just that there should be understanding as to why they happened."
"Henry didn't bother me too much. Between the loss of his mother, his emotionally unavailable father, and his "disease", he had reason to be difficult."
The consensus seemed to be that Henry was not "nice", but we could understand why.
The question of whether Clare was too much the "stand by your man" type of woman, rather than a feminist also came up. Jan wrote:
"Is Clare a feminist? Not in a political sense, her world is too small. But I think so, in the way I define it -- does she have the self-authorization, the self-assurance, the self-respect and determination to live her life as she defines it, without bowing to outside pressures and expectations (whether from family, tradition, or socio-political movements)? Her passion happens to be another person (a male of her species) and her child by that person, not a job or career, or calling or organization, the pursuit of which passions by women are more often thwarted by our society and culture and so more quickly invoke the political-feminist feature of the situation. "
The Time Traveler's Wife is a passionate love story, built around a difficult premise of time travel. It is a dark story with one of the main characters, Henry, being at best, rough around the edges. It's a sad story for Clare, who always waits.
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