The book follows Henry – The Time Traveller – and Clare – the Wife through their crazy mixed up life, full of futures, and pasts and the whole shebang that comes with time travel. None of his “powers” are in his control, and he will never know when and how long for we will go. In some ways, this is an alternate reality story, as Henry and (spoiler alert) his daughter are officially diagnosed with something called Chrono-impairment.
The Good Bits
From frostbitten feet amputation to multiple miscarriages, one of the things I love about this book it’s it’s Tragic Realism. While Clare does eventually get her kid, she too has the same impairment that Henry does. And as for the time traveller, well, his feet do not survive a particularly cold night in a parking lot. Which is just so surprising and tragic.
This book also has pretty strong characters. It’s told from two (eventually) married peoples perspective. And they are going through two very different experiences. While Clare is dealing with an absentee husband, Henry is trying to just hold on to his wife in his own time. And each of these problems begets their own solutions that the characters have to then deal with.
The not so good bits
It would have been nice to see Henry feel a little more disjointed in time. I know he’s been doing this all his life, but he would have missed birthdays, dinners, shifts at work – not to mention running nude around the stacks – and he just seems to shrug it off like it’s nothing. I would have loved to see Henry play catch up a little more.
It sure was convenient that Clare came from a rich home and was an artist. Because with a Husband flitting of all the time – how he kept that job is beyond me – he wouldn’t have been paid much and while there are many artists who are paid quite well for their work not everyone is. And even the good ones can have down periods.
Finally the detail that his book has is quite impressive. Niffeneger lists everything from punk bands to grocery lists for no real reason. Those groceries don’t actually matter to the plot and all the punk bands do is reiterate how “cool” henry is or whatever.
Thoughts from the Back Cover | Time Travel and Ethics part 2
The book actually looks at this, but if a time traveller – who isn’t lying to you – tells you who you’re going to marry and when, how much of that part of your future in your control. Might you not feel like you had to marry that person in order to continue the correct time line. I know I’d sort of feel like I’m whizzing to a future I have no control over.
But then say you don’t find out, but it still happens. That’s free will right, because you’re choosing t do it. Or are you, from the futures perspective, doing it because you’ve already done it. If your future self goes back in time to watch the wedding, knowing that uncle Jerry’s going to get drunk during the ceremony, does he do it because that’s what he does, or does he do it – from the future’s perspective- because he’s already done it?
What I’m trying to say is that does knowing the future inherently change the motivations of the present? Does knowing when and how you’re going to die change the “reason” you die is it just because or is it because that is the time allotted for you to die. That’s the one on your death certificate?
Basically Time Travel has a lot of ethical dilemmas to it and I don’t have any answers to them.
Get Reading. Get (Time) Travelling.