How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard is 439 years old. Yep, 439. He has a rare genetic condition that means he ages a lot slower than the average human, so despite his true years he still looks like he is in his 40s.
Straight away, I was hooked – I find this such a fascinating concept. Here we have a man who has been alive for thousands of years, he has lived through numerous historical events and adapted as the world has changed. Plot wise, there’s potentially a lot to pack in, but the selective years of Tom’s life that we delve into are so well done, it’s essentially a highly enjoyable romp through history – from Tom sailing with Captain Cook, to getting a job with Shakespeare and having a few drinks with F.Scott Fitzgerald – the appearance of these influential figures really does give a charming edge to the narrative.
Tom goes by several names throughout the book, as he has to change his identity to avoid his secret being revealed. This is all done through the Albatross Society, founded by a fellow long-lifer, Julian, the aim is to keep the ‘Albas’ (as they are known) out of the hands of scientists, who would just love to dissect them and see what makes them tick for so long. Every eight years the Albas must create a new identity and move to a new place. We meet Tom just as he embarks on one of these new identities (in the modern day), as an unassuming history teacher in London – a truly fitting profession being that he was a first hand witness to the events he’s teaching.
As well as a new identity every eight years, he is sent out on assignments to recruit others like him, while all the time looking for a specific person he is obsessed with finding.
Although living so long may sound like a wonderful thing, this book delves into the negatives too. How do you maintain relationships with people that age at a normal pace? How do you keep your sense of self when you have to change who you are every eight years?
I could have read so much more about Tom’s life, discovering what he got up to in all the years that were not mentioned, I was really engrossed in this story – thought-provoking and effortlessly written, I found this to be a unique and beautiful read.
Thank you to NetGalley for the eARC. Published 6th July 2017.