Summary and book reviews of How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig X
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
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  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

"The first rule is that you don't fall in love,' he said… 'There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'"

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. 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.

So Tom moves back his to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher - the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city's history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But 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 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.

PART ONE

Life Among the Mayflies

I am old.

That is the main 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.

I am old – old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old.

To give you an idea: I was born well over four hundred years ago on the third of March 1581, in my parents' room, on the third floor of a small French château that used to be my home. It was a warm day, apparently, for the time of year, and my mother had asked her nurse to open all the windows.

'God smiled on you,' my mother said. Though I think she might have added that – should He exist – the smile had been a frown ever since.

My mother died a very long time ago. I, on the other hand, did not.

You see, I have a condition.

I thought of it as an illness for quite a while, but illness isn't really the right word. Illness suggests sickness, and wasting away. ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The love story aspect of the novel is not its greatest strength. For history lovers, however, there is a lot more to admire. In flashbacks to Tom's many former lives, Haig takes readers to Elizabethan London, where Tom evocatively captures his surroundings, "The competing shouts and cries of traders. The drunken laughter of the ale-sozzled. The grunts and moos and hisses of assorted animals."   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

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Media Reviews

The Guardian (UK)
Haig has been gifted with a rare ability, which is to make the far-fetched – and even ridiculous – seem believable. His books tickle your mind and tug on your heart, and their pages slip by with beguiling ease...How to Stop Time will provoke wonder and delight.

The Bookseller (UK), Book of the Month
An addictive, time-travelling tale which unfolds at a cracking pace.

The Sunday Mirror (UK)
Full of Haig's trademark humour and humanity, this is a wonderfully entertaining ride through centuries of adventure. Gloriously heart-warming.

Evening Standard (UK), "The Best Books to Read This Summer"
A story you've been longing to read ... Haig's proficiency in writing for children has lent a gentleness that cuts to the very heart of this work and its readers.

Kirkus Reviews
An engaging story framed by a brooding meditation on time and meaning.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. His persistence through the centuries shows us that the quality of time matters more than the quantity lived.

Booklist
Starred Review. Haig's plot is obviously complex, but - a marvel of invention - it is seamlessly presented, telling an absolutely compelling story. It examines large issues - history, time, purpose, and more - but in an engagingly thought-provoking, compulsively readable way. It is, in every way, a triumph not to be missed.

Irish Times
How to Stop Time is a worthy addition to the time-travel canon, hugely entertaining, quietly funny and, at its best moments, contemplative and brooding.

Author Blurb Deborah Harkness, author of The All Souls Trilogy

Clever, funny, poignant, and written with Haig's trademark blend of crystalline prose and deft storytelling, this is a book that stirs the heart and mind in equal measure. A hugely enjoyable read.

Author Blurb Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project
Compelling and full of life's big questions, How To Stop Time is a book you will not be able to put down.

Author Blurb Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods
Matt Haig has an empathy for the human condition, the light and the dark of it, and he uses the full palette to build his excellent stories.

Author Blurb Jeanette Winterson, author of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Matt Haig uses words like a tin-opener. We are the tin.

Author Blurb Stephen Fry
Matt Haig is astounding

Author Blurb Kate Williams, author of Becoming Queen Victoria
Inventive, exciting, moving and bursting with insight about history, time and what it is to be human.

Author Blurb Marian Keyes, author of The Woman Who Stole My Life
I loved How to Stop Time, it's a beautiful and necessary book. I feel very lucky to have read it. It is magical, intriguing, and at times, very sad. A triumph.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

a marvellous read!
“…now I often want to climb back into that time before. Before I knew Rose, before I knew what would happen to my mother, before, before, before… To cling to who I was, right at the beginning when I was just a small boy with a long name who responded...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Witch Trials in Elizabethan and Jacobean England

In 1599, the early days of Tom Hazard's long life, his quasi-immortality results in a charge of witchcraft leveled against both himself and his mother, and he is forced to witness the harrowing ordeal of her trial. The belief in witchcraft was common in England at this time, upheld both by Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and her successor King James 1 (1603-1625). This belief is evident in a number of plays from the period, most memorably in Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which the prophecies of the three witches drive the action. James I had a history of persecuting those believed to be witches, and even wrote a book about them called Daemonologie in 1597 when he was King of Scotland, though he grew to question these beliefs in his later years.

...

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