The Time Traveler’s Wife: a ‘problematic’ adaptation of the hit novel

Book was made into a 2009 film – and now Apple TV+ has had a go

Theo James and Rose Leslie
Theo James and Rose Leslie in The Time Traveler’s Wife
(Image credit: HBO/Apple TV+)

Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, has sold so many copies since its publication in 2003 that “most people know the basics” of the plot already, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. In case you don’t, it revolves around a librarian called Henry, who has a rare genetic disorder that causes him to travel through time, landing him “dazed and naked wherever the cosmos takes him”.

Over the course of these “unchronological journeys”, he meets his soulmate, Clare, but they are regularly wrenched from each other’s arms “to reunite weeks, months or years later in more or less romantic scenarios”. The book was made into a 2009 film, and now Apple TV+ has had a go, with some success.

Rose Leslie brings “spark” to the title role, and director Steven Moffat (of Doctor Who fame) ensures that Henry’s comings and goings “create a choppy energy rather than chaos”. But even Moffat can’t make up for the “slightly depressing” fact that the story is built around Clare’s passivity: she’s always waiting for her man to come back to her.

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I found the series dated and sluggish, said Barbara Ellen in The Observer. It’s frankly “concening” seeing Henry as a naked older man visiting child-aged Clare, lurking in the bushes and insisting it’s their “secret”.

It is “problematic”, said Hugo Rifkind in The Times, and you start to wonder why “local law enforcement” has never taken an interest in this naked man; but ”it works”, thanks to strong performances and a plot that throbs with “pleasing allegorical heartache”.

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