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How to Stop Time Hardcover – 6 February 2018
“She smiled a soft, troubled smile and I felt the whole world slipping away, and I wanted to slip with it, to go wherever she was going… I had existed whole years without her, but that was all it had been. An existence. A book with no words.”
Tom Hazard has just moved back to London, his old home, to settle down and become a high school history teacher. And on his first day at school, he meets a captivating French teacher at his school who seems fascinated by him. But Tom 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.
Unfortunately for Tom, 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 tells 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. It 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.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
From the Publisher
- Publisher : Viking (6 February 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0525522875
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525522874
- Dimensions : 14.76 x 2.87 x 21.74 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 226,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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This story has everything I love in a good read. Great characters, interesting setting, fantastic story line, unpredictable. And his insights into people are worthy of a book on their own. He never waffles on, in fact there’s some, actually many, one sentence lines that are so amazing I had to stop and let them sink in for quite some time so I wouldn’t loose their intense meaning, their simplistic beauty. He’s a very clever writer and now up there on my favourites list.
Still, a wonderfully compelling read.
I loved the flashbacks into Tom’s past and his contrasting life in the 21st Century. So interesting to struggle with the concepts of time, ageing, integrity.
Well done Matt!
Top reviews from other countries
If ever a book deserved 5 stars it's this one. I devoured this book and struggled to tear myself away from it but the kids needed feeding, the boyfriend needs attention & I suppose I had to sleep 😒
This book was so well written that I had to keep reminding myself I was reading a work of fiction and not an autobiography. I got completely caught up in Tom and his story. The author effortlessly took the story from present day to varying times in Tom's life but it never felt confusing or strange. You totally believed it.
The voice and atmosphere of each point in history was captured vividly and I could really see Tom there doing those things. Those little details, minute touches of information about things that actually happened, made it all the more real.
I loved this book so much I was genuinely sad for it to end. I could've kept reading about Tom's life for much longer. This is one of those rare books that changes your perception, makes you think about life in a different and stays with you long after you've read it. I know this is a book I'll read many times over.
Parts I liked:
First - the good stuff. The historical sections were really interesting and opened up worlds I didn't know about; the part about the witch hunts and his mother were especially haunting and engaging. The premise is interesting and novel, almost like time-travel but without the narrative problems often encountered in time travel stories. It's an effective but simple concept that really makes you want to read it to find out what happens. Some of the writing is very beautiful and touching and there were parts which genuinely moved me - I found the part towards the beginning where Rose dies really heartbreaking.
The not so much parts:
Despite the good points, I often found it a chore to read. I can't really put my finger on exactly why - I just didn't really care about most of the characters (aside from what I've mentioned above). The main character in particular is exceptionally whiny. The premise is a good one but I don't think it has been executed in a very engaging way. I find with Matt Haig's writing I am often very aware of the authorial voice, which slips into ponderous/pretentious at numerous points. He is determined to tell the reader how to approach life, and he does this in quite a clunky way. Some of the lines are clearly meant to be breathtaking "oh I never thought of it like that" type lines, but I think this just takes the reader out of the story. All these added up to me giving up on the book - not really deliberately, but I just picked it up more and more infrequently and found it a chore whenever I did so, until eventually I just stopped picking it up. I like Matt Haig and I like some of his other books (in particular "Reasons to Stay Alive" which is wonderful). This just didn't do it for me, sorry.
In parts, it was quite fun for its depictions of different historical periods, its worldbuilding around the concept of these “albatrosses” as the long-lived ones call themselves, and its meditations on what he practical and psychological effects of a life like that would be.
But I thought it was pretty flawed in several ways. Firstly, it couldn’t resist the obvious trap of having the hero participate in far too many famous historical events and meet far too many famous historical people than was remotely believable. I was much more interested – and much more able to suspend belief – when it came to scenes of him living a normal life in medieval or Tudor times.
Secondly, after centuries of forsaking love, partly to avoid being hurt, partly due to the rules of his society, it was hard to see what suddenly attracted him to his modern day love interest. It felt rather sudden and forced. And thirdly, I found both her and modern day him so over-exaggeratedly right on in their interactions with each other and with the students at their school.
Overall, this had an interesting premise which it partially delivered on, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it.
Positives though, I enjoyed the early years, the time of witches, witch-finders and suspicion, and the evoking of British towns and cities at various times in history. Also the little insights into how people used to think, like rotten and blackened teeth were once a sign of prosperity, as those people could afford sugary treats. But it is to long, and it did feel a tiny bit preachy at times, and the current day stuff was very plain, rather dreary at times. So not all bad, just not that great either. Apparently Benedict Cumberbatch is attached to a possible film.
As could be expected of a story about a man who lives on and on as his loved ones die, there is an underlying Sartre-esque despair to the narrative, which is played with ironically by the inclusion of a French teacher as the love interest. Haig’s novel is thoroughly British, however. Self-doubt, subtle irony, Shakespeare, Tudor cottages, scenes of deprivation and poverty... Sounds like Python doesn’t it. And despite its somewhat heavyweight themes there is an edge of almost farcical satire to How to Stop Time.
As its cheeky title suggests, this is not a novel that takes itself too seriously. The prose and structure are both simple and beautiful. The characterisation is sophisticated and economical, the pace well-measured throughout. It’s a page turner from from beginning to end. A great one if you fancy something from the more Literary end of the science fiction genre.