New to me author Matt Haig is on the blog today with a story that is part fantasy, part time-travel and one of the better stories I’ve read this year. Please read on for my review of
How to Stop Time
“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love, ‘ he said… ‘There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'”
And we are off! For consistency’s sake, we’ll call the protagonist of this story Tom Hazard: a man with a rare condition in which he ages far slower (almost 15 years in real time for a year for him) than the norm. As an anagerian, he’s answerable (and in many ways controlled) by the organization that helps to relocate, rename and keep tabs on each member. Over the many years he’s been alive after being born to a wealthy family in France in 1531, he’s had many names, with many different careers, and seen many things. But, he’s broken the rules (to some extent) nearly every incarnation, and we’ve reached him at the point of his very long life that he wants out. Off the treadmill of reinvention, hoping to connect with his daughter, and just being generally fed up with what he sees as the pointlessness of everything.
Haig grabs readers by the ears, demanding that they understand this odd condition, the ages Tom has lived through, and his reasons for now wanting out of it all…soon, however, the heart is involved as it is easy to feel Tom’s deep-seated lonliness, his sorrow in memories of time past, and his inability to be surprised by anything anymore. He’s depressed and lonely, both understandable, and is frustrated by The Albatross Society and its leader, and their ability to both manipulate and control the lives of anagerians, and the knowledge that stepping out of line will also lead to death. Sure, he may be tired of hanging about, but to die before he finds his daughter, and to leave behind the memories of those he loved (loves still, actually) aren’t viable options either.
What a clever premise full of the longing for love and romance and something ‘solid’ that Tom can cling to even as he is struggling with the futility of it all. Memories strike moments in history: his times during the Plague, working at the Globe Theatre with Shakespeare, and the offhanded comment that the image so known as the man himself is nothing like him. The rise and fall of different powers, technological advances and the “safe, Not Safe, Safe” changes in opinions that happen over the years. Threatened with Bedlam, fearful of retribution, lost in his own memories and adopting a dog that is as much of a misfit as he sees himself to be are just moments that stand out as highlights of storytelling and writing. Haig’s use of words to describe moments, his facility with the creation of voice that carries with it the isolation and tiredness that wrap Tom in a cloak of separateness all work to make this a memorable character and story, leaving questions about one’s own life, the questions about the ability to ‘do over’ and if there really is any point of a life without love.
Title: How to Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy Elements, Time Travel / Alternate Universe
Published by: Viking
Published on: 6 February, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 1 minute
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"The first rule is that you don't fall in love, ' he said... 'There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'"
A love story across the ages - and for the ages - about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history--performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher--the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city's history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society's watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can't have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: