Warning: There is spoilage below!
I really prefer to read a story before I see the film version. And I’m really glad I did it this way for The Time Travelers Wife.
Usually, I’m a speed reader. I can devour a 300+ pages book in 24 hours then be eagerly looking for what to read next. But not with The Time Travelers Wife. It was so gritty and emotionally raw. And the complexities! I forced myself to slow down and only read small parts at a time, stopping regularly to think about what I had just read. In the end it took me about a month to finish the book. It was like I didn’t want the book to end and was prolonging our farewell.
My mother is currently in town visiting and I lent her a stack load of my books to pass the time. The Time Travelers Wife being one of them. I decided to have a girlie night with Mum and hired out the movie version for us to watch. As they always do, the book story was hacked and slashed. Big chunks of the plot and details were missing.
But you know what, it didn’t spoil it for me. Even though they took out the bits that made the book such a harsh but amazing love story, not having those bits in was what made the movie work for me.
So I’ll explain more what I mean.
Gomez & Clare
The whole Gomez/Clare relationship made the situation more real, more plausible for me. Everything was all sunshine and roses. Clare was human and made mistakes. Sleeping with her best friends guy, before she was finally reunited with Henry and out of grief after he died showed us she wasn’t the perfect heroine. But she was emotional, in love and in need of someone to touch, even if she was consumed with thoughts of Henry. It explained so much of Gomez’s behaviour towards Henry. The Gomez/Clare dynamic took us to some really private places and highlighted Clare’s frailty.
Gomez/Clare having slept together wasn’t part of the movie. But we still saw Gomez being overly protective of Clare, insisting that she not marry Henry. I’m not sure if this behaviour would have been a bit off to people who hadn’t read the book, but I was there thinking that he was only saying that because he wants back into her pants. We miss out on Charisse’s self-doubt and relationships with Clare with the movie adaption, which is what I miss the most. But I didn’t mind that removing the Gomez/Clare factor made the story cleaner and more of a fairytale.
Sex and Violence and other seedy stuff.
Sex plays a strong role in the book. It’s actually part of the temporary “cure” for Henry’s chrono-displacement. The more sex and exercise he has, the less he time travels. There is also the first sexual encounter between Henry and Clare before they are reunited on the same time-stream. To be honest I found these a but brutal. I wouldn’t class myself as a prude, but sometimes the sex scenes made me squirm. In no way were they written like erotica. They were raw and real and animalistic with their physical attraction to each other.
The book has it’s share of violence and law breaking. The scene where the boy from school is confronted is rather powerful. I found the ease at which Henry stole interesting and very realistic for the given situation.
There was a lack of sex in the movie, which I was happy about sitting next to my mother while watching it, but I was also disappointed that they took away that emotional dynamic from the viewers. Like I said earlier, it makes the story more fairytale like (well more Hollywood), and I didn’t mind not seeing the scenes. But I would have liked to have seen that passion in other ways.
The violence was toned down, possibly to ensure a friendlier rating. The scenes where Henry finds himself in trouble were brief. And the incident with the boy from school was completely removed – let’s face it, threatening a teenager with a gun in a movie would not go down well with everyone.
The ex, the alcohol, the amputation were some of the most confronting parts of the book. Henry is in self destruction mode when he and Clare’s times get ready to align. He doesn’t know that his love is waiting for him. Just as Gomez highlighted the human flaws in Clare, Ingrid and his alcohol self-medication highlighted them in Henry. The two of them were on a downward spiral together, but Clare pulled Henry out of it. He knew everything was going to be okay because Clare knew it. But Ingrid just knew she had lot him.
One of the hardest parts of the book for me to deal with was the loss of Henry’s feet. I was still hoping for a happily ever after, despite the dark foreshadowing earlier in the book. The impact on their relationship and the implication on Henry’s time travel, and him ultimately witnessing Ingrid’s suicide, grounded the reader in the truth – this is a great love story, but it is not a fairytale love.
Some lipstick is the only evidence of Ingrid. Like the Gomez/Clare saga, this has been erase to keep the focus on Henry and Clare. The only evidence of his alcohol issues comes more from his conversations with his father. I would have liked to have seen the self-destructive Henry.
I really liked how they dealt with the frostbite in the movie. The important thing was that he was immobile and he didn’t have to lose his feet to achieve that. The results were just as powerful.
I equally enjoyed the book and the movie, each for very different reasons. I preferred the book over the movie in a lot of ways, but I got something out of the movie that I just didn’t get in the book – knowing and waiting for a loved one to die. Maybe it’s because I read the book before Dad died of cancer (I possibly read it before he was diagnosed). But I felt this kinship with the movie on this. The heartache of Alba and Clare knowing that his death is coming is an agonising wait. If I reread the book know, I would probably feel this too. But I saw the looks on their faces in my family in the lead-up to my father’s death.
The ending of the movie also gave more hope than the book, which I won’t spoil here just in case you haven’t read/watched it (I know, I know – I’ve already given it away that he died). The endings are so very different for what they imply and I found more hope in the movie ending, but more true love in the book ending.
In movie form and book form, Henry and Clare go down as one of my favourite couples of all time. Thank you Audrey Niffienegger!