How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

Publication Date: July 6 from Canongate Books Ltd

Source: Review Copy


I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.’
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.

My thoughts:

How To Stop Time caught my imagination right from the start and I read it quite quickly, enjoying the trips through time. Tom’s condition is called ‘anageria’, in which, whilst he is actually ageing very slowly, he doesn’t appear to be getting any older. It’s the opposite of ‘progeria’ that causes a child’s body to age very quickly. It causes him problems, particularly in his youth in the late 16th century (he was born in 1581) when people suspected his mother of witchcraft. In more modern times the danger comes from scientists (the ‘new witch finders’) and their experiments to discover the nature and causes of anageria.

Tom tells his life story in flashbacks, switching back and forth in time between the present day and the past. His life is by no means uneventful, meeting amongst others Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Captain Cook, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. As a young man in Elizabethan England he fell in love with Rose and they had a daughter, Marion, who has the same genetic anomaly. He left his family to keep them safe and lost touch with Marion.  It’s a fascinating book that succeeded in bringing the past to life and transporting me back in time.

How To Stop Time is not just a trip through time because overarching Tom’s story is that of the Albatross Society, whose members have the same condition as Tom, headed by the rather frightening figure of Hendrich. The conditions of belonging to the Society are that every eight years members have to carry out assignments and in return Hendrich helps them to change the identity and thus keeps them safe over the centuries. Tom, who by now just wants to live as normal a life as possible, has become reluctant to carry out the assignments but he carries on as Hendrich says he is close to finding Tom’s daughter, Marion.

It examines the nature of time, the fact that life is continuous and ever-changing, but emphasising that in reality you can only live in the present. Without being in any way moralistic, it demonstrates that life should be lived to the full each day.

My thanks to NetGalley and Canongate Books, the publishers for an uncorrected proof copy for review.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1711 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (6 July 2017)
  • My Rating: 4*

5 thoughts on “How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

  1. This really does sound fascinating, Margaret! It’s not something you read about a lot, either, which makes it all the more intriguing. Thanks for sharing.


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