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. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.
The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.
How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.
What makes a life worth living? How long can you go on changing your identity? How many times can you start over? Tom has been starting over for 400 years now and he’s just about had enough. Because building a life for eight years and then having to give it up.. anyone would grow tired of that.
Nowadays, Tom’s a teacher. He’s constantly going off on tangents and losing himself in his memories while standing in front of the class. Although he’s had the chance to go on all kinds of adventures, what he really wants is a normal life. But that might not be possible as he’s drawn deeper into the shadowy depths of the Albatross Society.
I think the true strength of this book lies in the way it looks at life (and love).
“And, just as it only takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. You just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself: who am I? If I could live without doubt what would I do? If I could be kind without the fear of being fucked over? If I could love without fear of being hurt? If I could taste the sweetness of today without thinking of how I will miss that taste tomorrow? If I could not fear the passing of time and the people it will steal? Yes. What would I do? Who would I care for? What battle would I fight? Which paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself? What internal mysteries would I solve? How, in short, would I live?”
How WOULD you live? I think it’s not an easy question to answer.
Matt Haig drew me in with his beautiful writing. Within the first twenty pages I had marked a fair amount of passages I adored. The story was fast paced while still giving you lots of details. I loved meeting William and Scott (yes, we’re on a first name basis.). I was convinced that this would be a five star book and it was, in a way. Only my life got in the way.
When I had reached the last couple of pages, I got a message from one of my best friends, telling me that her uncle had been in an accident. It was bad, really, really bad. When she texted me, he was in surgery. Of course I put down the book to talk to her. A little while later, he died.
I forced myself to read the last pages the next day but let me tell you, reading about someone who has lived at least five full lifetimes when someone you know just died.. it feels wrong. About an hour after I finished the book, my neighbour knocked on my door. He was in tears. A good friend of his had suddenly died, completely out of nowhere. He wasn’t ill, he just.. stopped living.
So you see, life is short unless your name is Tom and you live in a novel by Matt Haig, then you can pretty much live forever.