How To Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Genre: Contemporary | Adult | Romance
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5 out of 5 stars – This is the epic tale of a life which spans over 400 years, some key moments in our history and what the world is like now, especially when you’ve lived in it for an extremely long time. This book is fun, humorous, heartbreaking, and inspirational. The writing is poetic, and the story is compelling. I love the main character and his perceptions, which were enhanced by those around him. This book definitely deserves the 5-star rating that I’ve given it!
Tom Hazzard is a talented, intelligent and secretive man who has actually been alive for more than 400 years. He has had family and lost them. He has had love and lost it. And he has spent most of his life searching for someone, for something, to keep him alive. Afflicted by a condition which makes Tom Hazzard live as if the time for him has stalled, Tom must face a life where those around him grow older, get sick, and disappear, while he remains forever young. But those close connections and relationships are what we need to really stay alive, and Tom is learning to what lengths he is willing to go, to find and maintain them.
“But we are all at the mercy of time…”
“I closed my eyes and the rest of the world faded. There was nothing else. Nothing but her. She was the stars and the heavens and the oceans.”
“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is something I don’t expect, I feel civilisation has become a safer.”
I fell in love with this book after the first page. The set up of the book is incredible, with an extremely intriguing opening that immediately reveals the character and begins to set the atmosphere for one aspect of the text, the science fiction; however, it soon became clear that the science fiction elements of this novel are not the key point, it is the main character and his both extraordinary and ordinary life that are so special about this book.
I loved so many parts of this, that it is hard to pinpoint what really made it stand out as a book I feel will forever be one of my favorites. But I’m going to try to put it into a logical review which brings all of my thoughts together in a coherent manner.
The book moves between different periods of time. One storyline is within the present, focusing on Tom’s life now and his attempts to live alone in the world and cope with his intense loneliness. Forced to move every eight years, under orders from a shadowy organisation run by a charismatic and dark figure, so that no suspicion is raised, Tom begins to wonder if his life is still worth living or whether he should just give up. He reflects on his 400 years and the people that affected his life during this time. The story switches back and forth between these two different time periods, detailing the loss of Tom’s mother, his love, when he joins the organisation, and the years in between, spent living alone and lonely.
Reading partly like a historical fiction novel, the time shifts are cleverly plotted to be woven into the main storyline at the opportune moment. When something reminds Tom of the past he drifts into his memories and lets the reader hear his story. The story is clever and intriguing discussing superstition, love, and prejudice. There are instances when Haig gives a quick, witty commentary on aspects of the world that are both succinct and astute. For example, when discussing the more open-minded attitude of people in some parts of London, Tom mentions that it may be “the result of having a theatre, but Hackney seemed to be a more open-minded kind of village than Edwardstone.” Haig presents culture as a way for people learn, develop and adapt. In fact, throughout the novel, Haig points to educations ability to civilise and offer opportunities. This is reinforced later in the novel when Haig reflects on teaching as a career “To teach feels like you are a guardian of time itself, protecting the future happiness of the world via the minds that are yet to shape it.” There are other comments on life throughout the novel that I love just as much, and this is probably one of my favourite parts.
The love story in this novel is compelling. The relationship between Tom and Rose is one of the most beautiful relationships I have read in such a long time and I loved reading about them. Here, Haig has now written some of my new favourite quotes of all time, both of which are above, but although the words are beautiful, most important are the supportive ways in which the relationships are portrayed. I felt attached to every character, no matter how little they actually appeared in the text, and I think this is a testament to Haig’s writing and ability to develop a realistic world and characters.
I also found this novel to be incredibly funny. There is a moment when Tom is shopping in Tesco and attempting to use the self-service check out which I found hilarious. The mention of bicycles in the present is also paralleled with a mention of bicycles and their creation in the past. Tom sees a copy of a Fitzgerald novel and recounts his meeting with Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in his past. The mirroring is clever and always made me smile. It was a fun element which added a touch of brevity within a text that had some very touching, serious notes.
Ultimately, I loved every moment of reading How To Stop Time and I savoured it. I took a while to get through it, writing notes, discussing different aspects, and just genuinely enjoying it. I think the structure was unique, the characterisation and commentary fun, but I also feel that the novel has many different levels which will allow new elements to be discovered on each rereading.
If you like this…
Read Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann. I mean seriously, just read it. It’s another one of my favourite books and is just such a wonderful epic tale of love, and loss that weaves through two different time periods. Reading How To Stop Time has made me want to read Random Acts all over again, and I’m sure that I need to pick it up very soon.