Summary: A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.
Review: I read this book for the first time about two years ago, and have just finished re-reading it for the third time this week. I'll be honest- my first time through I fell head-over-heels for this book and thought it was perfect. After having time to let it digest, go through it again, and having read many of the criticisms others have I acknowledge there are many flaws. I'll admit it - the characters are pretentious. Certain scenes felt forced, the most noticeable being a party Henry and Clare attend where they see two younger "punks" standing quietly. There are pages dedicated to Henry discussing (which essentially means listing) his favorite bands. How this helps the story along, I haven't the slightest idea. It seemed a convenient way for Niffenegger to show off her "vast" musical knowledge. Despite the hipster attitude the author tends to infuse the novel's characters with I was easily able to overlook it, and at some points I thought it added a certain charm.
I may be biased when it comes to this novel because there were certain, albeit small, aspects that I found hit close to home and endeared me to the characters. Henry being a librarian as one, and his father a violinist. Both occupations were something I could relate to on a very emotional and personal level and warmed me up to the characters from the very beginning.
Surprisingly, as I went through the negative reviews on numerous sites I found myself agreeing with a lot of them. Why yes, Clare is definitely spoiled.....wow, Henry was sort of a jerk....I guess it is a little creepy Clare had sex with Henry when she was 18 and he was in his 40's etc. It's all a matter of different opinion, but I enjoyed the book because of these reasons. Of course they're not supposed to be perfect. In fact, the whole situation is completely fucked up.
Henry and Clare have a ridiculously strange and bittersweet relationship. I have to disagree with many of the reviewers who loved the story because of it's cute, or beautiful love story. On the contrary the romance aspect here is downright depressing. The uplifting part is that despite all of the weirdness, despite the fact that they're both pretty messed up people, they still found comfort and love in one another. Whether it was pre-destined or not, both Henry and Clare managed to find happiness with one another. I didn't get the feeling anywhere that we were supposed to envy or even admire these characters. Henry wasn't a good guy. Understandably dealing with the death of his mother, an abusive father, and his chrono-displacement he ended up depressed and with the wrong crowd. When Clare comes into his life, he begins to settle down and find something solid to hold onto.
I thought the time-traveling was handled exceptionally well. It never ended up being overly-confusing and everything fell into place gracefully throughout the book. I especially enjoyed the fact that the time-travel was explained! FINALLY! I absolutely hate when an author gives a main character a special skill such as time travel and never bothers to explain WHY or HOW this could be happening. I expect them to at least make some attempt. It added an interesting dynamic and realism to the story.
Overall Thoughts: This book seems to be a hit or miss with people. It definitely got me hooked and has quickly become one of my favorites. I think everyone should give it a try...you may fall in love with it too. Be patient in the beginning, as it can be a little confusing. Eventually everything will fall together.