Title: How to Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Obtained: Publisher/Goodreads Giveaway
Synopsis: Tom Hazard has seen so much history. Born in the late 16th century, he has a rare condition that allows him to age much slower than an average person. But now, in the 21st century, he just wants to live a quiet life. He is part of an elite organization filled with members only like him called the Albatross Society, and they have only one rule to follow: never, ever fall in love. It seems a reasonable rule for someone with Tom’s condition. But we never choose when, or who, we fall in love with. Will Tom choose love over an organization that has kept him safe for centuries?
Thank you so much to Viking Books and Goodreads for sending me this book! All opinions are honest and are my own.
How to Stop Time came on my book radar last November while I was researching new releases in 2018. I’d never heard of Matt Haig before, but he’s a well established author with a large following. And after reading what this book was about, I knew I was sincerely interested in checking it out! So I added it to my Goodreads TBR and entered a giveaway and, lo and behold, the book was mine to read! And I’ve been gushing about it ever since!
How to Stop Time reminded me so much of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I think that’s what attracted me the most to this book. But the similarities really end there. Tom Hazard was born in the 16th century, and has experienced so much sadness and heartbreak throughout his extended life, that I sincerely felt for his character. It can’t be easy dealing with all of these difficult memories and knowing that you still have at least four centuries to go before you die.
I also loved that, although this book is marketed as Historical Fiction/Fantasy, there is a bit of a plot twist at the end and some conflict between characters. I wouldn’t say it’s an all-out thriller, but I got a little OMG Moment near the end of the book!
Introducing Tom Hazard
Tom has known many names. But, officially, we meet Tom in the 21st century as he decides on where he wants to live for the next eight years. As a member of the Albatross Society, he gets that choice and, after the years are up, he must do something for the society and transfer somewhere new with a different identity.
This concept is interesting and it makes sense. As an adult, I feel that eight years is just about long enough for someone to notice that a man never ages. It’s a safety issue; keep moving around and changing your identity, and no one will notice you and want to sell you to the scientific community.
But Tom is a simple man with simple tastes. He was the son of a wealthy French aristocratic couple, but fled to England when his father was killed for being Protestant. He grew up in Elizabethan England, but it wasn’t until his teens that he and his mother noticed Tom wasn’t exactly aging appropriately. The villagers in Suffolk noticed, too, and Tom has been haunted by heartache ever since.
There was something so amazing about the quality of the writing. This is my first Matt Haig book, but I’m making sure it won’t be my last! Obviously, Tom is centuries old and his description fits a man in his 40s. But, when reading the story in the first person, I can automatically tell that he is as old as he says he is. I can’t explain it. I got so intensely sucked into the writing that I believed every word that Tom Hazard told me!
Obviously, with a story about a man who is centuries old, I thought it would be difficult to understand the timeline in How to Stop Time. But I was absolutely pleasantly surprised when I realized that we experience Tom’s life through his own memories now rather than going in chronological order. This makes the timeline jumbled, but all of these jumbled memories were triggered because of something he experiences in his present.
“It is strange how close the past is, even when you imagine it to be so far away. Strange how it can jump out of a sentence and hit you. Strange how every object or word can house a ghost.”
I loved everything about that, and I love that we get to see Tom interact with William Shakespeare and Captain Cook and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. These experiences give me as the reader a really good sense of history and how Tom fit in, but also doesn’t seem too overreaching or farfetched.
Exploring Aging and the Concept of Time
There were so many quotable moments from How to Stop Time. I feel like Tom was telling us this story so that we would learn from his own mistakes and live life the way we want. Obviously, it took him a few centuries to figure all of this out, but doesn’t want us to miss out.
“Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live?”
As a centuries-old man who looks only 42, it’s no surprise that Tom has constant headaches and flashbacks. I can’t fathom the brain containing 500 years of memories, whether they are good or bad. For Tom, he has experienced loss quite a few times, and ends up detaching himself from civilization. I can completely understand this. I have a much smaller concept of time and memories, but I’m haunted by a few things in my own past every so often.
In short, this was a stunning page turner. How to Stop Time managed to pull me out of my reading block and get me back to enjoying life for what it is. There are times in my life where I’m sad, but Tom Hazard makes me want to live my life to its fullest potential. I adored this book, and I really think it’s a book that everyone would enjoy and learn from.
“Maybe Shakespeare was right. Maybe all the world was a stage. Maybe without the act everything would fall apart. The key to happiness wasn’t being yourself, because what does that even mean? Every had many selves. No. The key to happiness is finding the lie that suits you best.”
Rating (Nothing less than 5 Stars!)