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How to stop time by Matt Haig

How to stop time (edition 2017)

by Matt Haig

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9685913,916 (3.78)43
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 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.… (more)
Title:How to stop time
Authors:Matt Haig
Info:Edinburgh : Canongate, 2017.
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

  1. 30
    The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (shaunie)
  2. 00
    Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: For another take on immortality, try Before Ever After, in which a woman learns that her supposedly late husband is actually alive -- and centuries older than she thought. A wealth of obscure historical lore makes events come alive.
  3. 00
    Time and Again by Jack Finney (Othemts)
  4. 00
    The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (Othemts)

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» See also 43 mentions

English (57)  German (2)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
I at first when starting this book thought wow this looks like a really long and boring book but I was totally wrong because this is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. "How to Stop Time" may look boring at first but it really taught me a few things about other people and what there lives may be like and for this I loved this book. Also reading it showed me that us children these days never get off our devices and we seem like well.. Brats.
This book is like a life multiple century long lesson on what happens to someone over our horrible history. But this book also gives you those really nice parts that make you feel good and joyful. I would say that anyone who is having a hard time could easily cope with and understand what "Tom Hazard" is going through and why he is. This book is a fight for what they want in life that they lost very long ago and they are finding it again now and is trying to fight it but knows they can't. ( )
  ssherman.ELA1 | Oct 30, 2019 |
Tom Hazard ages slowly. In fact, despite the appearance of a middle aged man, Tom is well over 400 years old. His medical condition has been both a blessing and a curse through the centuries and How To Stop Time by Matt Haig explores part of this life in all its pain and beauty.

Tom is subjected to fear and suspicion from those who begin to notice he doesn't age and he must move and change identities every eight years or so. The dangers he faces change with the times, but whether it be an accusation of witchcraft or the fear of being kidnapped and subjected to laboratory tests by big pharma, the threats to his life are ever present.

Falling in love is the biggest risk of all and the reader shares some of Tom's bittersweet memories of heartbreak and loss.

Published in 2017, How To Stop Time is a real clashing of genres. It's historical fiction meets science fiction with a dash of time travel resulting in a unique tale of endurance and the ability to adapt over time. It was this theme of history and the passage of time experienced by one individual that appealed to me the most.

In the Vampire Chronicles, bestselling author Anne Rice openly explores the relative success - or failure - of her characters to survive and adapt to the changes in technology, religion, culture, conflict and displacement over time. This constant learning and adaptability make a person wise and sometimes intuitive, and this was the case for Tom too.

What I didn't enjoy was the casual name dropping of well known figures from the past, so the novel loses a star for including interactions with Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. (I readily acknowledge this may be a highlight for some).

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig is recommended for historical fiction fans looking for a fresh angle on the past and science fiction readers looking to dip their toe into another genre.

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin * ( )
  Carpe_Librum | Sep 29, 2019 |
I have been a fan of serious time travel fiction (an oxymoron, I know) for a long time, but these days the genre seems to have morphed into some kind of romance novel/time travel novel combination so I’ve tended to read less and less of it. But I figured if I can’t find a time travel novel I want to read right now, why not one about the slowest kind of time travel possible - a book about a man who has lived for more than four centuries and is still going strong. That’s the premise of Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time, a novel that mostly works but at heart is really another romance novel.

As the novel opens, Tom Hazard has moved back to London after a long time away and is interviewing for a history teacher job at a private high school. Tom, though, finds it a bit difficult to concentrate on the interview after the school’s young French teacher catches his eye. That’s not too unusual or surprising a reaction from a healthy 41-year-old man like Tom. But the truth is that Tom is not 41 years old; he is 439 years old, and the London he has been walking through all morning bears little resemblance to the city he left behind so long ago.

Tom has only recently (recently in terms of his true age) learned that there are many others out there like him, people who have lived by their wits for centuries. Tom, a man who sailed with Captain Cook, worked at the Globe Theatre with Shakespeare, and was introduced to the Bloody Mary by Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, has had to run for his own life more than once after superstitious locals noticed that he was not aging. Now he has the support of the Albatross Society, a group whose purpose is to keep the secrets of people like Tom. But unfortunately for Tom, the number one rule of the Albatross Society is a simple one: Never, ever, fall in love.

Matt Haig uses numerous (maybe I should say countless) flashbacks to tell Tom’s story. That is, of course, the most obvious way to approach a story like this one, but it should have worked much better than it did in this case. The problem here is that there are so many flashbacks that they chop the present-day story into such tiny bites that they just barely move the segment along before another, longer flashback begins. And that can – and did – get very frustrating.

Bottom Line: How to Stop Time is romantic science fiction that touches lightly, very lightly at that, on a few historical eras and events. Even at its climax it is difficult to believe that anything bad will really happen to Tom or those close to him. It’s not that kind of book, and it isn’t intended to be. I do see that How to Stop Time is soon to be a “major motion picture” starring one of my favorite actors, Benedict Cumberbatch, and I suspect that it will make an entertaining film. ( )
  SamSattler | Sep 28, 2019 |
I read the hardcover and Overdrive audio editions simultaneously.

This story is a perfect mix of historical fiction and speculative fiction! But even though many have shelved it as such this is technically not a time travel book. The main character and some other characters do not time travel. They merely live long enough to experience many eras/years/decades/centuries.

I wasn’t expecting the humor and I loved it. For me there were many laugh out loud moments.

I was expecting the heartbreak but a few parts were heart wrenching and one part in particular was very difficult to read and then to remember. That one scene was incredibly upsetting though it did seem perfectly authentic and I’m glad it was included. It definitely helps understand the main character’s point of view about himself and about life.

One major pet peeve: Even though it makes the story so fascinating, and it’s all too common in many of these historical fiction/speculative fiction stories that the characters know famous people throughout the ages because most real people do not know many or often any famous people.

In addition to Tom there are so many memorable characters including Omei (spelling? – I’ve already returned my copies to the library) and Hendrich, Camille, Rose, Marion, and others including some of the characters based on known people.

I’m not sure that I liked how everything was resolved in the very final sections but overall I liked how it ended, though I do have a main question. Only a couple days after finishing this do I realize that maybe the ending as it is has left room for a sequel. If there is one I will read it. Some of what happened toward the end I definitely wasn’t expecting but I guess I kind of appreciate that.

My favorite parts were the philosophical musings about life and time and especially the slice of life moments & periods in various times and places and lives, the historical fiction parts even more than the speculative fiction parts. The speculative fiction parts (aside from how that affected the alba characters, was only a way to tell the story. (Albas: people know live an unnaturally long time; mayflies: humans who have normal time lifepans.)

There is a lovely start to acknowledgements section in the back.

The ratings for this book are all over the place and it seems most I know on Goodreads didn’t like it or didn’t like it as much as I did but this was a solid 4 star book for me and the premise and some things about it are 5 star worthy.

I considered my main edition to the hardcover book, but I was reading the audio too so: the narration was okay and at times great, and at times over dramatized. One quibble I had was when the singing parts were sung anyway I wish the lute had also been played. I love the lute and would have loved to hear it. And there was one weird thing, the words in both editions were identical but at the end of page 314 in the hardcover the audio seemed to have an additional full paragraph that wasn’t on the page(s) of the hardcover edition and it was sort of important too though the book’s text got enough of its meaning across. It was fairly long; otherwise I’d have written it down and included it in my review.

This is a highly quotable book and couldn’t even start to list all those I loved.

There were also quite a few lines that came unexpectedly and gave me laugh out loud moments, but there would not be much point in sharing most of those because out of context they’d lose their humor. I also had to stop making particular note of quotes. Too many! Wise things about life. Things about music. Etc. Etc. Etc. Also quotes from other authors.

Just some of the quotes that were meaningful for me:

“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don't expect, I feel civilisation has become a little safer.”

“Nothing fixes a thing so firmly in the memory as the wish to forget it”

“Human beings, as a rule, simply don't accept things that don't fit their worldview.”

“But this is how I remember these things, and all we can ever be is faithful to our memories of reality, rather than the reality itself, which is something closely related but never precisely the same thing.”

“To talk about memories is to live them a little.”

“It made me lonely. And when I say lonely, I mean the kind of loneliness that howls through you like a desert wind. It wasn't just the loss of people I had known but also the loss of myself. The loss of who I had been when I had been with them.”

“That's the thing with time, isn't it? It's not all the same. Some days - some years - some decades - are empty. There is nothing to them. It's just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.”
“Places don't matter to people any more. Places aren't the point. People are only ever half present where they are these days. They always have at least one foot in the great digital nowhere.”

“That is what history is, the teaching and telling of it. It is a way to control it and order it. To turn it into a pet. But history you have lived is different to history you read in a book or on a screen. And some things in the past can’t be tamed.”

“This is so often the way with life. You spend so much time waiting for something – a person, a feeling, a piece of information – that you can’t quite absorb it when it is in front of you. The hole is so used to being a hole it doesn’t know how to close itself.”

The longer you live, the harder it becomes. To grab them. Each little moment as it arrives. To be living in something other than the past or the future. To be actually here.
Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live?”

“The key to happiness wasn't being yourself, because what did that even mean? Everyone had many selves. No. The key to happiness is finding the lie that suits you best.”

“You need to learn the art of discretion. Of speaking about a thing without actually speaking of it. Truth is a straight line you sometimes need to curve,-”
“I have bemoaned people who say they feel old, but I now realize it is perfectly possible for anyone to feel old. All they need to do is become a teacher.”

I’d recommend this book to most readers who enjoy historical fiction or speculative fiction books. ( )
  Lisa2013 | Jul 10, 2019 |
This is sort of sci-fi, historical fiction, we follow this fellow who goes by many names, as one must when they live past the age of 400. An exciting story of intrigue, romance, and frustration, it's a little like a spy novel, and a little like a romantic comedy. Matt Haig has surprised me a few times, I may have to read more of his work! ( )
  Pepperwings | Jul 1, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Matt Haigprimary authorall editionscalculated
Meadows, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riddell, ChrisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I often think of what Hendrich said to me, over a century ago, in his New York apartment.
"It's strange, isn't it? All the things that we have lived to see.... spectacles, the printing press, newspapers, rifles, compasses, the telescope, the pendulum clock, the piano, Impressionist paintings, photography, Napoleon, champagne, semi-colons, billboards, the hot dog."
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Eternally young, longing for true connections. I can trust no one. (PeggyDean)

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