This novel by Audrey Niffeneger, published in 2003, has become a frequent choice of book clubs since its publication. It was the author’s debut novel, and a fine one at that.
First Thoughts: Judging from the cover and the thought of “time travel,” I expected a story of how a person, or a team of persons, travelled back or forward in time, experienced adventures and perhaps had to accept consequences for inadvertently causing changes in history or the future of the earth. Was I ever wrong! In the first place, Henry De Table, the time traveler of the title traveled involuntarily, spontaneously, and ended up naked, somewhere in time. It caused many misadventures often leaving him beat up, bruised, and sometimes badly injured. This “twist” to time travel made for a complicated, complex non-traditional love story.
Characters: Henry’s soul mate, Claire Abshire, meets him first as a young girl; she around six or eight; he a middle-aged man. Her choice to marry Henry, accepting the strangeness of their marriage, where he might suddenly disappear, was a life-altering one.
Style: Flashbacks, obviously, and jumping around in time are the structure of this novel. However, the reader is never confused as to when and where the characters are because the author has provided at the head of each section, the character speaking and his/her age at the time of the scene. Surprisingly, with all the jumping around in time, the novel is never disjointed or confusing.
Overall Impressions: This was a darned good read which plumbed the depths of the reader’s emotions: incredible joy, aching sorrow, frightening uncertainty, and many more emotions. I would definitely give this novel five points out of five points and would recommend it to every reader.