contemporary · Historical Fiction · review

How To Stop Time – Matt Haig

“All we can ever be is faithful to our memories or reality, rather than the reality itself, which is something closely related but never exactly the same.”

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Blurb: “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. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.”

There are some books where words are just not enough; books that defy every possible descriptor you could place upon them because it gives you a feeling so deep in the pit of your stomach that you simply cannot shake. Dear reader, this is one of those books.

Tom has lived for over 400 years and therefore has been around for some significant points throughout history: he has lived through the plague, survived the witch trials, performed on stage with Shakespeare, and had drinks with F.Scott Fitzgerald (you can imagine how much I squealed at that point).

As part of a society, Tom is given a new life every eight years and his current placement finds him back in London as a History teacher. This aspect was brilliantly clever as it allows the reader to be taken back through time to various points Tom is teaching about. There was just something about it that centred the universe and made everything feel more real. He walks down the familiar streets of London being constantly reminded of the wife he outlived and his daughter, born with the same genetic condition, so is out in there world but he doesn’t know where.

Fundamentally this is a story about identity: What do we become when everyone good about our lives become memories? Who are we if we outlive our loved ones? Who are we outside of our connection to others?

The writing is mesmerising and beautiful, complete with passages that force you sit back and contemplate so many things about life. It created this sense of yearning right in every part of me for something that I’m not quite sure what it is, and I don’t think I’ll ever find out.

How To Stop Time is a book that will stay with me for a very long time and has made it onto my list of favourite books of all time in the process.

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