I am pegging this one down as my CBRbingo white whale for two reasons: 1) I have been starting and failing to read this book for years- a lot of people kept telling me how great it is, and how much they loved it, but up until recently, I just couldn’t get into it enough to get past the first 50 pages; and 2) it is so long- close to 600 pages- and so finishing it feels like a real accomplishment (especially because ‘white whale’ is my last bingo square to be filled- BINGO!).
I will not mince words: I hated this book. I am game for a literary time travel romance, but this did not do it. I found the early scenes creepy, where an adult Henry time travels to visit his future wife, Claire, who is still a child. It felt icky, like he was grooming her- scenes like the one where she was in her mid-late teens and he was playing with her feet, then stopped abruptly as reminded himself not to do quasi-sexual things really emphasized this. I also hate Niffeneger’s set up, where Claire knows that Henry is ‘pre-destined’ to be her husband but Henry does not know that Claire is waiting for him. This premise means that Henry gets to date around in his twenties but Claire is always and forever waiting for her one future husband. This is emphasized after they’ve been married for years, and Claire finally unburdens herself by telling Henry that she slept with a friend of theirs back before she’d even met real-time Henry. Claire clearly feels like that one-night stand was cheating on Henry, despite the fact that she was in her early twenties and single when it happened. Henry’s reaction doesn’t abuse her of this notion- he feels jealous. Moreover, Henry actually does cheat on his existing girlfriend, Ingrid, when he gets together with Claire. Niffeneger gives Henry some mild guilt over this, but has Henry absolve himself by rationalizing that 1) Claire is pursuing him, and she is attractive and hard to resist; 2) he didn’t know that Claire was coming, so how could he have broken up with Ingrid beforehand; and 3) he and Ingrid had a rocky relationship and were bound to break up anyway. Henry also seems to rationalize that Ingrid deserves to be treated horribly, because their relationship was volatile (Ingrid has mental health issues, including addiction. Henry’s drug use with her and at the same time isn’t painted as addiction, but wild youth). What a douche.
The only mild saving grace- the thing that separates this from things like Twilight- is that Niffenegger writes passably well. I don’t remember any poetic language but I also wasn’t offended by her writing style.
I am sending this one to Goodwill and not recommending it to anyone I know and like.