I’m going to start by saying; I’m not the biggest fan of romance novels. I take a very practical view of love, it’s not shiny, and it doesn’t make me misty eyed and weak in the knees. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great thing to love and feel loved, but the over sensationalized love and “true love” irritates me.
So with that being said, I grabbed all the books that I have, that have been adapted into a movie, and since it’s February I decided to start with…
The Time Traveler’s Wife
By Audrey Niffenegger
(I don’t know if I should warn about spoilers, but I’m pretty sure that’s a given.)
It’s the classic boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, and have a baby, but with a twist. Girl, Clare Abshire, meets boy, Henry DeTamble when she is six, and he is thirty-five. Now Henry doesn’t meet Clare until she’s twenty and he’s twenty-eight. He’s a time traveler who’s life is completely out of order. All those memories she has of him, he gets to live through in the future. He’s pulled back to those big moments in his life, to the people who have impacted him the most. I honestly enjoy this book, though some moments come across as a tiny bit creepy (him being in his forties playing house with his teenaged future wife). But it is an enjoyable book, that was obviously written with love.
Now For The Differences
I understand why things have to change, and some things just don’t translate well. There’s so much more you can get away with in a book than you can in a budgeted movie that’s only 107 minutes long, like Gomez not being Polish, Etta, Nell, and Henry’s coworkers just not showing up at all. It’s not entirely relevant to the story. I’m by no means saying they’re unimportant characters, but those are little details that don’t change the plot. Little, tiny inconsistencies like that I can brush away, but the big things bug me.
Right off the bat, the movie deviates from the book. It opens with the accident that killed Henry’s mother implying that it is the first time Henry becomes “dislocated” in time. In fact, it does more than imply. Older Henry pops up and wraps a blanket around six-year-old Henry telling him that he’s a time traveler and he’s him from the future.
This bugs me because it falls into the trope of “Your special powers manifest when your life is threatened.” That is indeed not the case, yes the time travel is possibly linked to stress, but it’s any kind of stress. In fact, the first time it happens to him in the book, it’s his fifth birthday, and he’s too excited from the events of the day to fall asleep. He then finds himself naked in the museum he visited earlier that day. He also runs into an older Henry, who takes care of him, and implies to young Henry that they just have the same name, not that they are the same person because five is too young to understand and fully appreciate what’s happening to him. (Henry doesn’t find out until he’s nine.)
By the time the reader hears the story, which he tells to Clare when she’s still a teenager and is hiding him in her childhood house, you know Henry, and you’ve gotten to understand the disadvantage of time traveling.
Mrs. Kim being gone. Granted she is a minor character, but she is a significant person in Henry’s life. After his mother passes, and his father can’t be emotionally present for his son, Mrs. Kim effectively becomes Henry’s mother figure. She also takes care of Henry’s dad when he quits drinking. Kimmy makes Henry get out of bed and live what he has left of his life when he loses his feet. She’s a big part of Henry’s family, and they wrote her out of the movie.
Oh and the fact that he didn’t lose his feet in the film irritated me. Close to the beginning of the book, Henry tells Clare that if he can’t run, you might as well shoot him. It’s so important that he be in shape and able to run from anything that’s chasing him (because finding yourself in the past or future, naked, moneyless, and with no idea how long you’re going to be stuck there, you’re going to have to break a few laws).
The last significant difference is before Henry died, he wrote the letter to Clare. It’s important to their story because to her it’s proof that he existed and that he loved her. (Not that she had doubted his love, just that it proves he was real at one point.) It’s like the poem she found after her mother passed, it’s incredibly meaningful to her, and it brings her out of sorrow and back to life. In the letter, he tells her to move on, and quit waiting for him, but tells her that she’ll see him again when she’s an old woman. The last scene in the book is bittersweet, just like their entire story, and the movie changed it to something relatively happy.
Now, dealing with time travel it is going to be convoluted, but Niffenegger makes that work with the way she works the nonlinear timeline that mimics Henry’s life. Sometimes it’s unclear whose point of view I’m reading because it switches between Henry and Clare, and I have to go back to the beginning of the segment to see who it is (this is cleared up in the audiobook version since there are two narrators).
If you don’t read the book, the movie is a bit hard to follow.
If you did read the book and can get over all the things missing, I don’t recommend the film. Clare comes off as a “damsel in distress” type of woman, unable to live her life without Henry. The book is written somewhat like a diary between the two lovers, so most of it is a type of inner monolog, which didn’t translate to the film. The characters come across as less than they were in the novel, the plot seemed rushed, and everything felt forced.
I recommend the book for anyone who wouldn’t mind a time traveling story without the crazy antics of running off with the handsome adventurer in a blue box.