This is the story of Henry DeTamble, a librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare have a passionate love affair that endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap.
Henry and Clare's enduring love is at the center of Audrey Niffenegger's haunting novel, The Time Traveler's Wife ... But Niffenegger, despite her moving, razor-edged prose, doesn't claim to be a romantic. She writes with the unflinching yet detached clarity of a war correspondent standing at the sidelines of an unfolding battle. She possesses a historian's eye for contextual detail ... The ability to revisit one's past doesn't necessarily illuminate one's understanding of events. And knowing the future is not particularly a good thing, Niffenegger's story implies. This is what makes her story both compelling and unsettling.
Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, at turns playful, wearisome, and moving, chronicles the efforts of Henry, a librarian, and Clare, an artist, to build a stable life together despite the unending threat of separation and loss ... the characters' accounts of the normal rites of passage — dating, friendships, family visits, engagement, planning their wedding — is like flipping through a photo album; the activities recounted are not remarkable, but we feel privy to someone's intimate, precious memories ... At its most touching, the novel is a hymn to the pleasures of the ordinary and tangible, the sensuousness of the here and now ... The Time Traveler's Wife can be an exasperating read, but as a love story it has its appeal.
Audrey Niffenegger throws you into a pretty perplexing scenario at the start of The Time Traveler's Wife...[Henry] has been travelling from his future to [Clare's] past, and in that past they fell in love, so he hasn't yet met her in his own present ... Somehow, that tangled mess of tenses sorts out on the page into a scene that is entirely comprehensible and rather charming ... Niffenegger goes on to exploit the possibilities of her fantasy scenario with immense skill ... Take away the time travel, and you have a writer reminiscent of Anne Tyler and Carol Shields, who captures the rhythms of intimacy, who burrows into the particularities of family life. Because she builds this scaffolding of domesticity, what you remember is the realism as well as the fantasy, and through much of the book the time travel works to enhance the reality rather than take over from it ... she certainly weaves her plot well.