The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I’m taking a class about time travel in literature – and joy of joys, I get to read The Time-Traveler’s Wife.

At first I was mildly excited to dig into it, because I figured by the time it rolled around in the middle of term, I’d be ready to read something light and fun.

The problem is that I’ve started reading it and it’s, well, pretty bad.

The actual time travel part is interesting – the titular time-traveler involuntarily travels through time, especially triggered in times of mental or emotional stress, and Niffenegger relates it to a sort of epilepsy, which is a really neat way of thinking of it. Unfortunately, the first 150 pages or so are largely focused on how he ends up travelling back in time to meet his wife as a kid, which means they’re largely focused on him waiting around for her to come of age so they can bone down. Even better, he spends this time teaching her how to play chess, and how to deal with bullies, and diving deep into all kinds of literature and language and philosophy in a particularly eye-rollingly condescending way. The novel should have been called The Mansplainer’s Wife.

I’m just so over the trope of men with otherworldly intelligence and abilities, and likewise over the trope (which is the next 300 pages of the book) of women waiting around for these super-intelligent, super-angsty men, and covering for them, and making excuses for them, and trying to make them as happy as possible. To Niffenegger’s credit, the main character, Clare, has her own driving interests and passions, and makes beautiful, huge, creepy paper sculptures and art. Unfortunately, she’s also constantly worrying about where her husband has gotten off to, and feeling incomplete without a baby, and covering for him when he misses work.

 

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