Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

How to Stop Time

Rate this book
"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.'"

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

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.

325 pages, Hardcover

First published July 6, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Matt Haig

106 books34k followers
Matt Haig is the author of novels such as The Midnight Library, How to Stop Time, The Humans, The Radleys, and the forthcoming The Life Impossible. He has also written books for children, such as A Boy Called Christmas, and the memoir Reasons to Stay Alive.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
40,835 (26%)
4 stars
62,472 (40%)
3 stars
40,418 (26%)
2 stars
9,491 (6%)
1 star
2,087 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 16,048 reviews
Profile Image for Fishgirl.
107 reviews275 followers
March 28, 2017
I guess I should straight off the bat tell you what happened when I finished reading "The Humans." And yes, I know this is supposed to be a review about "How to Stop Time." Bear with me. So, I finished "The Humans" and I a)wept b) started it again immediately c) spent the next two years giving it to everyone on my gift list and basically insisting everyone read it. My ace in the hole has always been this - "If the road gets rocky (and everyone's road gets rocky sometimes) I can re-read "The Humans" and I'll feel that feeling again, that I'm not alone, that there is hope, that there is goodness."
Okay, enough about "The Humans" and I write this as an unabashedly huge fan of the way Matt Haig puts words on paper. Let me tell you about "How to Stop Time." Wait. No. You know, I read a lot of reviews here on "Goodreads" and think wow, bingo, right on, so well done! I really admire reviewers who are able to articulate what often just feels like a jumble in my own mind over a reaction to a book.
You don't need me to tell you what this novel is about, that blurb is up top there, right by the book. See? Yeah. It's about that.
One of my friends went to the London Book Fair and scored an advance copy. Because she's one of the people I encouraged (forced/insisted/wrangled int0) reading "The Humans" and she also fell in love with the book, she came to my work and dropped off the newest novel last week. In. My. Hands. I'm serious. I could see it in her eyes, I could see it, I barely could function for the rest of my shift and I wrapped it up so it would not get anything on it at all. She said, "You know how you loved "The Humans," right?" I nodded. She said, "Well, he was just clearing his throat. Wait until you go into this one." Can you imagine? Can you? Try. Think kind of shaky, breath a bit rapid and shallow, scared and excited, all at the same time.
I (get this) PUT IT ASIDE for six days. There must be an award somewhere for this. Get it for me. I deserve it. I wanted a day where I had no work to go to and so I waited. That day was yesterday. I got up and ate the oatmeal pretty quickly. I made the tea. I sat in my chair. Aside from tea breaks (during which I drank the tea fast and ran back to my chair - picture the menopausal sweaty woman in track pants and polar fleece because it's still SNOWING here these days) - and I read and I read and I read.
I nodded so much I looked like one of those little plastic dogs you have seen if you are of a certain age that used to be in the back of cars, those nodding plastic dogs. Did their eyes light up? Maybe some did. The posh ones. So I nodded and I nodded and I nodded. And I wept. And I laughed. And I finished the last page.
You know, there's lot of clever authors. There are. Good with words. Big brains. Able to both craft and execute a complex plot line. They're out there. I've read their books. Many of them. Books have been my sustenance for a very long time (but now also fishing and billiards of late).
This is what I think. Matt Haig's huge heart (and it may well be the biggest one I've encountered) is equally matched by his huge mind. He cares so deeply. He cares about us, we humans. He cares because we suffer. He cares because we try, we try. And fall down and try again. He has such a far-reaching compassion for humanity that I sit here and think to myself, how can I ever begin to tell you, reader people? How can I tell you? The world is a much softer place for me because of these two novels. My friend was right, the one who loaned me this novel. You'll see, you'll see how this one came into being, how his mind works. It seems so simple really to ponder what he says... what if we were kind? What if we were brave? What if we really let ourselves care?
I sent an email to my friend (she asked for one word of what I thought, I'm taking her to dinner in April so we can discuss it properly)...
"I wept.
I felt like he wrote it just for me.
I am sure many people will feel that, yes?"

She said:
"Yes, they will.
You summed it up perfectly. "

If you're still reading this, thank you, I know it's long. Okay, you know the drill, run, run, run to the bookstore. Run.

Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
March 13, 2018
This is my second book by Matt Haig and, to be honest, it's probably going to be my last. Everything from his writing style to his characters to his (lack of) plot doesn't seem to be working for me.

How to Stop Time is about Tom Hazard who looks like your average forty-something guy but actually has a rare condition that makes him age slower than the average human. So he's around five-hundred years old. Wow, sounds interesting! Right? Except that's kinda it. There's very little story or forward momentum beyond that.

Tom spends the whole book wallowing in self-pity over having been alive so long and having to abide by the rules of the Albatross Society - a group for people like him. He constantly churns out cliches about how everything changes but nothing changes, which is said over and over again in different ways. He's so whiny and self-absorbed.

And if you think it's going to be all sweet and romantic like The Time Traveler's Wife because the blurb is all about how he can't fall in love and how this is a "a love story across the ages"-- this is misleading. It's not romantic at all. He spends most of the book grieving for his dead wife and maybe I’m a terrible terrible person for asking this, but is it really realistic that Tom’s grief still seems so fresh after more than 300 years?!

Maybe I am just heartless.

There's also a really bad flow of narration. The time-jumps in the middle of scenes made it difficult to settle into the rhythm of any time period. And a lot of these feel pointless. It’s like “time period of the week” or, in this case, the chapter. Tom zips all over the place, having a lot of quirky random adventures and meeting everyone from Shakespeare to Omai to F. Scott Fitzgerald but there is actually VERY LITTLE STORY.

It seemed like a random bunch of name-dropping and historical event-dropping. Because of course this guy was present at almost every major historical event across the globe in his several hundred years of life AND met almost every famous person you've ever heard of. I'm exaggerating. But why would he have met all these people just because he was alive at the same time? I’m alive right now in 2018, but that doesn’t mean I hang out with Beyonce and the 14th Dalai Lama.

I could not suspend that much disbelief.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews608 followers
March 18, 2018
Library Audiobook......

Something must be wrong with me......This is the novel everyone is raving about?

I’m doing it again......Throwing in the towel....NOT GOING TO FINISH....

It’s NOT that anything is morally wrong with this book —- there are even some wise messages and heartfelt moments — but mostly I was kinda bored.
I would never call this ‘fiction nonsense’ ( cough cough)- like the last book I didn’t finished where I was pounded over the head by a guy, ( not really - haha - but a little), for writing a review- having only read 41%. —- its just that this book wasn’t quite the right fit for me.

Usually I’m not a fan of time travels anyway- ( 11/23/63 was a one time exception- I was sure of it) - but then I read Diane Chamberlain’s new book, “The Dream Daughter”, and thought she crafted a fascinating novel where I was authentically stimulated by the challenge she presented. I had to suspense belief - but there was ‘plenty’ that ‘was’ believable. I was addictively curious to the last page.
So....I figured, 3rd time must be a charm - I’d try again with this popular and mostly favorable by readers - time-travel’ book.

41% seems to be my breaking point - I just wanted to move on. I was getting bored.
With so many other books at hands reach - I didn’t feel a need to ‘have’ to continue.
Read OTHER reviews- many readers LOVE this book!!!!

Rating for approx 41%. > 2-2.5 stars
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
January 15, 2018
4+ stars

I’m captivated by a good time travel story and while this is not a time travel story in the strictest sense, I was reminded of a few favorites - Jack Finney’s Time and Again , Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife . I couldn’t help but think of all three of these at the very beginning of the story : “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.” Of course, the main character in each of these books falls in love. Our protagonist Tom Hazard takes us back and forth across centuries from the now through flashbacks to his past not just years ago, but centuries ago. No he’s not time traveling. He’s just very old, due to his affliction which causes him to age at a much slower rate than normal and in Tom’s case he ages in appearance a year for every fifteen years so now he is over 400 years old. So it is his memory that takes us back to the time when he fell in love with Rose in 1599 and when their daughter was born

If I haven’t lost you already, I’ll try to make the case for this story. What I said in my review of Jack Finney’s book Time and Again held true for me here: When I read a time travel story, I try not to dwell on how the character got to this other time and place. It just doesn't pay because then I start asking questions for which there is no realistic answer. So for me it has to be about the destination, what I find there, what happens there, what it means for the character in his or her present day. What we find in Tom’s past is a lonely, sad life with moments of joy that he has to run from in order to keep his loved ones safe. All of this connected to his desire to lead a normal life and find his daughter as we find him in the now teaching history in a London school.

There are also moments where I found sheer enjoyment - from when he works at the Globe Theater for Shakespeare to when he plays the piano at Ciro’s in Paris and meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, among others. I also loved the appearance of the famous Dakota apartment building in New York City in the 1890’s as it is also in Jack Finney’s book. The story has an ominous side to it as well in the character of Hendrich, head of the society claiming to protect those with the affliction.

This was lovely way to spend a snowy weekend taking a trip down Tom Hazard’s memory lane - all 400 years of it. Amid the fear and loss and loneliness there is a lot of love in this creative and captivating story as well as some things to think about for sure - what it means to live one’s life, what are the important things, the things to hold precious. To those who just don’t think they can accept the premise of the story I say the same thing I said about Finney’s book: Imagine you are in another time, in another place with people you don't yet know. It doesn’t have to be a story about time travel; it could be a fantasy, a mystery, a story that takes place in history or in the future because isn’t this what we as readers of any fiction are ultimately summoned to do when we begin that first page of any story.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Viking through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 81 books168k followers
June 7, 2020
A melancholy novel about a man who lives for hundreds of years, unable to move past the true love he outlived — or perhaps the idea of the person he was when he was with his true love.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.5k followers
January 9, 2018
4.5 stars for this one.

"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."

Because of a rare medical condition, Tom Hazard has been alive since the 1500s. Born into a wealthy French family, he has traveled all over the world, assumed many different identities, and led a life characterized by adventure, trauma, emotion, and loneliness. Tom has performed with Shakespeare, explored with Captain Cook, shared a cocktail with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and experienced the drastic changes the world has undergone through the centuries.

Even though he has seen incredible things, what Tom wants more than anything is a normal life. He had that once, back in Shakespeare's time, when he met a woman and fell in love, but as his unchanging appearance caught the notice of suspicious and fearful townspeople, he had to leave that life behind. Yet he's never stopped thinking of her and wishing things were different, that he was different.

"So, don't think of me as a sexy vampire, stuck for ever at peak virility. Though I have to say it can feel like you are stuck for ever when, according to your appearance, only a decade passes between the death of Napoleon and the first man on the moon."

Those like Tom are watched over by a group called the Albatross Society, which protects them and ensures they keep their longevity a secret from the general public. The shadowy head of the society, Hendrich, controls Tom and calls in favors to move him to place to place every eight years (since that is about the period of time before people notice he doesn't seem to grow any older). But Hendrich has his own ulterior motives, and his own methods of ensuring Tom and his brethren are kept in check. And the one major rule Hendrich has impressed upon Tom for many years now? Never fall in love.

Tom's latest persona is as a history teacher in London, a place that stirs old memories for him, memories of love and loss. But when he meets a beautiful French teacher who seems to think she's seen him before, he starts to wonder whether the rules to which he's adhered are truly worth it. What good is living for hundreds of years if you have to do so alone, without letting anyone get close to you? But Hendrich will stop at nothing, will use everything and anyone to ensure his charges comply with his rules.

This is a fascinating, beautiful, moving book about love, loss, loneliness, and adventure. How to Stop Time shifts between Tom's current life and the different persona he assumed throughout the years. It's both a rollicking adventure through time and a love story through time, populated with fascinating characters and events.

Matt Haig is a tremendous storyteller, and I found this book so creative, poignant, and enjoyable. It gets a little slow at times, but for the most part it's just such a beautiful story. Obviously, some suspension of disbelief is necessary for a story like this, but at its core, it's a book that explores universal themes. Definitely a winner.

NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
Profile Image for Siobhán Mc Laughlin.
343 reviews62 followers
July 30, 2017
This book was so bad it actually did stop time for me - stopped time on my reading, bigtime. I've been trying to finish it for the past three weeks or more...! Just the thought of picking it up was too much. (Just as there are some books you can't put down - there are books you can't bloody pick up - and this, for me, was one of them.)

Honestly. What a farce. Sorry Matt Haig. I do enjoy your writing. But I should have known better after reading 'The Humans.' Although I loved the idea of it, I was underwhelmed by its poor narrative. But this was something else entirely. After just one paragraph my attention would wander. All that telling and no showing. (Show don't tell! - the most basic rule of writing...!)

The first problem was the characters. I couldn't care less about the characters - because they weren't characterized that much, just puppets in a poorly realised show. And with the narrator coming across as unlikable and unremarkable (unusual for someone who has lived over 400 years...), not to mention self-involved, moany, bland and boring - it's pretty hard to care.

The story. Well. If there's one thing I can't stand about bad writing, it's the fact that there is no story, rather a pretence of a story, a thin wispy veil that acts as a vehicle for the author's abundant sentimentalities. The thing I most disliked about this novel was the many regurgitated cliches about life and Time rehashed in a plot that is as flat as a steamrolled chicken. At times, I felt I was reading the author's Twitter feed condensed into prose!

There are so many unique things that could have been done with the cool premise that all the blurbs of this book promise. But sadly, they weren't. I don't think I've ever read anything as deflating, anything that elicited a 'wait, that's it?' reaction. And the clip-clopping, staccato stuttering chapters from the present to the past, marked so awkwardly by 'Oooh I feel a memory coming on,' were just so cumbersome, cringe-worthy and just tired.

And to add insult to injury - the curveball chapters of meeting Shakespeare and F Scott Fitzgerald (!!), just parachuted in from nowhere, stretched the bar just a bit too far. That's what you get when the author is telling the story I suppose, and not the narrator. Which was how this novel came across to me. I'm sorry, I don't want to sound like a hater, but when writing a novel, you make sure you leave yourself out of it (!). A true writer surrenders everything to story. A bad writer surrenders story to everything else - the sentimental motives, personal creeds and other concerns that unfortunately blot out the vitals of fiction. This is what this novel feels like.

Was tempted so many times to give it up. It was only the thought of venting my frustration here that kept me going to the end...!

I really couldn't stand this book. And I wanted to like it so much... Disappointing!!!
Profile Image for Nina (ninjasbooks).
957 reviews377 followers
February 24, 2023
I savored every bit of this book. The author did stop time, grabbing my attention, making me forget everything else. So many beautiful sentences and quotes, so many thought-provoking ideas. The story was also unlike anything I’ve read lately. It was so fun to walk in the shoes of somebody who’s been alive for a long time. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,620 reviews986 followers
July 11, 2021
Tom Hazard has just got the job as a history teacher as a school in a less privileged area of East London in the early 21st Century; despite knowing that he's absolutely not allowed to connect with people, he feels a sense of interest and desire towards one of his fellow members of staff. Why is that an issue? Tom Hazard is over 400 years old and belongs to a secret organisation of very long lived anomalies, called the Albatross Society!

Matt Haig captures the plight of the long-lived quite well, and through countless flashbacks appears to give us some really well researched snippets of English and Empire history over the last 400+ years. The book also manages to stay very much protagonist focused whilst still able to look at the wider issues through his lens - what makes us who we are, and how should we live? This is my favourite Haig read so far, but ultimately for the concept, the speculative fiction reality and the detailed jaunts to the past than the main meat of the story itself. Still, a solid 8 out of 12.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,606 reviews5,989 followers
January 18, 2018
There comes a time when the only way to start living is to tell the truth. To be who you are, even if it is dangerous.

So, I'm breaking the rule of not sharing a quote on an ARC book. You kind of have to know if you are going to read this one...do you like pretty flowery writing? It's pretty full of that.

Tom is old. Very old. He just does not look it. He has been alive for centuries. No, he isn't one of those sparkly vampires.

He has a condition that causes him to age much slower than the normal human. Of course, that causes problems. Whether in the olden days where they suspected everyone of witchcraft or the 20th century where we can just be dingdongs. Tom has challenges.

He is taken under a secret 'society's' wing where he meets people with the same condition that he has. There are rules. Never fall in love. (yawn) Move somewhere new and start over every eight years because people start to wonder why you are not getting any older.

But Tom is depressed. He can never forget the woman he loved years and years ago. He is missing another piece of his life and has been searching for it for a long time. He whines about these two things for most of the book..so get ready!

And he has met several famous people. Shakespeare, Captain Cook. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker. (This took away from the story for me..as I had to roll my eyes a few times-but then I'm an old heifer.)

I didn't hate this book but I sure did not love it.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
March 2, 2018
4.5 stars - I loved this one!

Most of us have heard of progeria, a condition that is characterized by accelerated aging. Young children with the disorder have the appearance and medical conditions of the very aged. In this book Tom Hazard has the opposite, a condition called anageria, where the aging process is slowed down. Tom is over 400 years old but looks to be in his 40s. He can expect to live close to another 600 years. It’s a rare condition, but there are others like Tom.

For a culture that is obsessed with anti-aging products and plastic surgery, this sounds like a dream come true. But not so fast. There are downsides. Members of the scientific community know of their existence and want to imprison them for experimentation. There’s also the pain of watching everyone you know and love grow old and die. So, in order to protect themselves, one (nearly impossible) rule is to never fall in love, and a second rule is they must move and assume new identities every 8 years. It’s a lonely existence.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but Tom has endured painful losses and now roams the world, weary and emotionally spent, searching for the daughter who shares his condition. Along the way he muses about his life and the people he’s met, including Captain Cook, Shakespeare and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

These interludes are Tom’s memories, not fully fleshed out characters. I enjoyed them but this section did drag a little bit. There’s also a small thriller element, but the main focus of the novel is a poignant look at life: what does it mean to live, what makes life worthwhile, how to embrace life without worrying about a future we can’t see. These are universal lessons for all of us, regardless of the amount of years we have on this earth. My e-book is filled with highlighted passages, words that resonated with me.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book. (Keep in mind these may not be in the final published book):

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

“To teach feels like you are the guardian of time itself, protecting the future happiness of the world via the minds that are yet to shape it.”

“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 is 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.”

"Many of us have every material thing we need, so the job of marketing is now to tie the economy to our emotions, to make us feel like we need more by making us want things we never needed before. We are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly traveled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly is we aren’t photo-shopped and filtered.”

On the effect of music: ”Music doesn’t get in. Music is already in. Music simply uncovers what is there, makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you, and runs around waking them all up.”

"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 fear of being f*cked 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? What would I do? Who would I care for? What battle would I fight? What paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself?...How in short, would I live?"

Mr. Haig is quite the storyteller. Highly recommended!

*I received this e-galley via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
*thanks to my fellow traveling sisters for reading this with me!
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews735 followers
February 16, 2020
You have to choose to live...
Exceptional story, out-of-the-box subject: 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... Imagine, living in times of Shakespeare, Napoleon, up to today.... And try to be invisible, as people may be looking for you.... And whatever happens, don't fall in love.
A story about love and making choices. I like this writer.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,327 reviews2,145 followers
March 24, 2018
I am giving this five stars because I enjoyed it enormously and I finished it in one day! I love time travel and although this was not that really, it had the same effect and was just as pleasing.

Tom Hazard has a condition which means he ages very slowly indeed and in this story he is well over four centuries old. How to Stop Time alternates chapters from the present with others from his extensive past. When I was reading the past I had to keep reminding myself he was living it at that time and not visiting it from the present. It was intriguing.

I was pleased that the present chapters and the past were equally interesting. Tom's experiences teaching and his relationship with Camille were able to compete with him meeting Shakespeare and Charlie Chaplin. The ending was satisfactory and even optimistic. I closed the book with a smile on my face and went straight to Amazon and bought The Humans
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
March 3, 2018
3.5 An engaging story about a man who is 400 years old and will continue to live hundreds of years more. Tom Hazard, a man now living in current times, but remembering his love who lived so long ago, and his daughter, who he has long been searching. His daughter, who like him, is able to live a long time. There are interesting forays back in time, historical happenings as Tom remembers. The witch trials in England, playing to lute and meeting Shakespeare, playing piano at Ciro's, and many others.

The chapters alternate between present day, and his past lives, though the past remembrances are for the most part out of order, sometimes for me it seemed like they were just thrown in to bring more famous people into the story. My reception of this novel was mixed, it is entertaining and flows well, easy to read but the constant changing focus if the story kept me from engaging emotionally. There is also a mysterious group called The Albatross, which between this and the age of Tom and others gave this a fantasy flavor, far from my favorite genre. The ending though, I thought well done and did do much to pull the novel together, which is why I went up a bit in my rating. There was also some insightful musings on the role of time in our lives.

I did, however, enjoy our sisters read discussion, love our differing opinions. So an engaging characters interesting historical tidbits but a fantasy element I couldn't fully embrace.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
October 13, 2022
It is strange how close the past is, even when you imagine it to be so far away. Strange how it can just jump out of a sentence and hit you. Strange how every object or word can house a ghost. The past is not one separate place. It is many, many places, and they are always ready to rise into the present. One minute it is the 1590s, the next it is the 1920s. And it is all related. It is all the accumulation of time. It builds up and builds up and can catch you violently off guard at any moment. The past resides inside the present, repeating, hiccupping, reminding you of all the stuff that no longer is. It bleeds out from road signs and plaques on park benches and songs and surnames and faces and the covers of books. Sometimes just the sight of a tree or a sunset can smack you with the power of every tree or sunset you have ever seen and there is no way to protect yourself.
This begins with a personal bit of meandering. Please feel free to skip the next few paragraphs. I have noted below where the actual review begins.

Summer, 2021, I was looking for a Porch Read. I had recently discovered the joys of sitting on the back porch in the wee hours, reading from my phone a book I had no intention of reviewing. I do most of my reading at my desk, entering notes as I proceed. My second reading spot is bed, before g0ing to sleep, armed with a laptop. My goal is to get in 10-40 pps a night there, also entering notes, researching the unfamiliar, and copying quotable passages into the Word file I keep for every book I read.

I have not used the Apple Books app much, having read maybe a handful of items that way over the years. But my wife has acquired a fair number of e-books and I can access them. So, a quick trip to the available family-share e-library provided a decent selection. Haig’s seemed like the sort of pleasant fantasy I was looking for. So off we went, knocking off maybe 100 phone pages a night, of a bit over 700. An entertainment, not one of my beloved literary fiction books. But still, I found myself highlighting a few passages here and there. And when I got back to my desk the day after I finished reading it, I thought, well, I’ll just make a note on GR that I had read it, but the urge to make a file for it was too strong. I mean, ok. I don’t have to write anything, really, just record keeping. I surely don’t have to post anything. As I had not taken notes while reading that would be a bit of a challenge anyway. But, it turns out that one can upload highlighted items. Couldn’t hurt, right? Just filling in the QUOTES section of my Word file. But a part of the e-book is an interview with Haig about the book, and, of course, that is like free crack to a base head. I wrote a line, or two, summary stuff, and the reviewer that I had chained in the basement for this book was screaming to be let loose. So I began writing something soon after I finished reading. It was not a complete thing, just a start, really, and remained in a digital drawer, spotty, and unfinished, for rather a while. Good thing too.

It happens sometimes that I get stuck in a book, whether for reasons having to do with the book itself, or due to external forces, demands on my time, acts of nature. I was reading two novels at the same time, the norm for me. I was quite enjoying both, but September, 2022 has been a time of increased requirements. Not to mention a bout of Covid. My downstairs reading time was decimated by the need to get up early to drive here and there for various reasons. Out of the house I was unable to do much daytime reading. And by the time I went to bed I was only able to remain awake for an embarrassingly small number of pages. The result was that my well-crafted reading schedule was shredded, and I needed to dig into the archives for a read book that I had somehow managed not to review, if I were to keep alive my string of consecutive weeks posting a review, a thing of absolutely no significance to anyone but myself. (33 months at present) It is not quite a form of cheating. I did read the book. I did write a review. There is usually only a small gap between when I read the book and when I finish writing about it. So, not my usual review of an upcoming or recent release this week. Hope to be back in the saddle next week (Lungfish). The loss of a week does mean that books in my very full reviewing schedule will be pushed back a week from the dates on which I had hoped to post my reviews of them, which is never a happy thing.


Tom Hazard has been around a while, a very, very long while. Born in the late 16th century, he caught a winning ticket in the Methuselah Lottery, a condition called anageria, which causes him to age at a glacial rate. (one year for every fifteen of ours, kicking in at about age 11) Locals of any era might get just a wee bit suspicious of someone taking so long to reach the usual life stages. And we can expect the more superstitious, ignorant, and mean-spirited among them to assign dark forces to anything they do not understand. The more scientifically inclined might see a prized lab rat. Thus, the need for some protection.
I often think of what Hendrich said to me, over a century ago, in his New York apartment. “The first rule [unlike the first rule of Fight Club,] 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 ok.
The Albatross Society was how Tom, Hendrich, and others like them stayed alive in the fast-aging world. They called themselves “albas” while referring to those stuck with more usual lifespans as “mayflies.”

Matt Haig - image from The Guardian by Sarah Lee

But there is more than just the love thing. In return for services and protection from the Society, every member must agree to uproot every eight years, new location, new name, new backstory, and they must do some task assigned by Hendrich. Which has a familiar sound to it.

Well, you can see straight off how at least a part of this is gonna go. Don’t fall in love? Oopsy. Too late. Tom struggles with this near-immortality situation, as most literary long-lifers tend to do. Think vampires. And is life really worth living if there is no love in it? So, we have Tom’s journey through time, and his struggle. He has a purpose, providing motivation for his actions, but I will not spoil that for you.

The other element here is Matt Haig touristing through several time periods of interest.
I used the novel as my own personal time machine, traveling to places I would be interested in visiting. I debated whether to include famous characters in the novel. Especially Shakespeare. That seemed a huge risk, for obvious reasons. But I knew that if I actually traveled back to Elizabethan England the thing I would want to do most is meet Shakespeare. And after all, a lot of real human beings did actually meet Shakespeare, and he was quite an accessible figure at the time, especially as London was a far smaller place than it is today. I wanted to give a true sense of the weight of time and the idea that the past was never really lived as ‘the past.’ It was always just another present. - from a Conversation with Matt Haig in the Appendix
The Shakespearean play performance is particularly rowdy and fun. He rides with Captain Cook, who commits outrages against indigenous people in Australia, plays piano with F. Scott Fitzgerald, visits a lawless 1926 Arizona, Hollywood of that era, London and New York of the late 19th century, Australia, Tahiti and more, touching on each of the centuries in which Tom has lived. While he does look at political subjects, (such as rabble-rousing around witchcraft and bigotry, whether via superstition or a desire for economic or political gain, and Cook’s crimes) they are not a primary focus of the book.
Just as Tom does for his pupils, Matt Haig brings History to life. Matt told us that he chose teaching as an occupation for Tom because he “thought it’d be fun to have a history teacher who himself IS history”. Matt’s mum was a teacher for forty-five years and he wanted “to take this character who has lived for centuries, who has realised there is no more important or wonderful life than that of a teacher.” - from the W.H. Smith interview
How to Stop Time is a bit of an exaggeration, as it would have been more accurate to have titled the novel How to Slow Down Time. It is not a time travel novel, per se, as the character lives in a linear chronology. His steps among several places and time periods are via memory, not magical transport. In a less long-lived mode, the “Observer-through-time” format has a character looking back over personally experienced history. This has been used quite nicely over the years, usually maxxing out at about one hundred years. Jack Crabb of Little Big Man pops to mind, as does Forrest Gump. The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, by M. Glenn Taylor, is another. Tom Hazard has a longer history to recall.
For quite a while I had wanted to tell the story of someone unfathomably old. I felt like it would be an interesting way to look at history by making it personal. I also think the best way at looking at human life is often to have a narrator who is a little bit beyond human. It’s like taking a step back from a painting to get a better view of it. I thought, for instance, it would help explore some very human things, such as how to cope with grief. If you live for centuries you are going to know about loss. - from a Conversation with Matt Haig in the Appendix
Tom, by nature of his peculiar genetics, is doomed to feel like, and be an outsider. This lines up with Haig’s prior work, both fictional and non, about depression, including his own. He has a knowing voice on the subject. How to Stop Time was Haig’s sixth adult novel. He had written five non-fictiOn books, including the wildly successful Reasons to Stay Alive.

So, bottom line is that How to Stop Time is a warm, engaging read, offering a lead relatable by being stricken with issues common to us all, regardless of our longevity, finding and holding on to love, keeping his secrets, and trying to live an honorable life. The visits to diverse times and places, and to some familiar historical figures, are delightful, and help keep the book chugging along. Makes you wonder who would be on your short list of historical figures you’d like to meet, which places you would want to see and when you would like to see them. You can get an early start by taking on Matt Haig’s particular list. It is a quick read, so you will not have to stop time to get through it.
…what is the point of living when you have no one to live for?

Review posted – October 7, 2022

Publication date – June 11, 2019 – Viking – First published in 2017

This review has been, or soon will be cross-posted on my site, Coot’s Reviews. Stop by and say Hi!

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, FB, and Twitter pages

-----Festivalettertura - Stopping Time with. Matt Haig
Rather than coming from a place of superior knowledge, he writes instead as an explorer, seeking especially to come to terms with depression and other mental health issues. How to Stop Time is a metaphor for the secret burden of mental health, and the profound, alienating, loneliness that it can bring. In this sense, it is a continuation of Haig’s previous novel, How to Stay Alive.
-----R. H. Herron - Ep. 209: Matt Haig on Literally Writing the Multiverse

Reviews of other work by the author
-----The Midnight Library

Items of Interest
-----Penguin Random House - How to Stop Time Reader’s Guide
----- Book Club Questions for How to Stop Time by Matt Haig by Heather Caliendo
-----Monty Python - The Albatross sketch
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,798 reviews2,391 followers
September 18, 2021

4.5 Stars

If you were to call him by name, you could call him Tom Hazard, but the truth is that over the years, he’s been known by many names, having to change his identity before the truth catches up with him, reveals him to be who he is. Reveals what makes him different than any other man who appears to be around forty. The truth is slightly more than that.

In “this life” Tom teaches history in London at a comprehensive school (a secondary, state school) to young men and young women, teaching these young people lessons of history, some of which he lived through. The wars of old, famous men and woman, such as Shakespeare. There are more than a few famous names you will recognize as this story talks about the changes in time and place throughout his life. The things he’s seen. The witch hunts of old, and those of more modern times.

There is an organization that looks over, looks out for these people, anagerians, those whose internal “clocks” have a much different timeline than your average person. There are always people who will look for what is different in others, feel they must force them out of society, must alienate others from accepting them; they must be kept from co-existing with the “normal” world. This organization, ‘The Albatross Society’ has rules, but the primary rule is saying no to love.

”You are, of course, allowed to love food and music and champagne and rare sunny afternoons in October. You can love the sight of waterfalls and the smell of old books, but the love of people is off limits.”

Life is change; it is one of the few constants of life. Change can be welcome or unwanted, exciting or forbidding, and time goes by, bringing change with it, regardless if we are ready or not, or if we wish the change to come sooner. Times passes, as it will, on its own.

Capturing moments, a lifetime of them, seems daunting at times, for each moment you spend capturing another moment, yet another moment is lost. You can’t spend your life this way, either, we must live in the here and now or we are just revisiting the past, but we can’t – or shouldn’t – stay there.

Before I began reading this, I’d just finished the third book of Matt Haig’s books that I’d read, the other three were a series of Christmas stories aimed at children, but charming enough for adults to enjoy, especially parents reading them to their children. I wasn’t sure what to expect from an adult novel by him, but this shares his ability to spin a tale and keep your attention. I suspect I will be thinking about this story for a long, long time.

Published: 06 Feb 2018

Many thanks for the ARC provided by PENGUIN GROUP Viking
Profile Image for Holly  B .
850 reviews2,021 followers
March 4, 2018

An enjoyable book about Tom Hazard, a very old man (400 y/o), but you wouldn't know it by looking at him! He looks to be somewhere in his forties. He is stricken with an unusual "condition". His condition makes him an "alba" which means he could be in danger of being discovered (never aging). Is this a blessing or a curse?

The past and present alternate as we learn how Tom began his journey, and where it will take him over the years. We find out who Tom has loved, the tragedies he has endured, and the lessons we can learn about time.

There is a mystery to unravel, some elements of fantasy as he meets famous people such as Shakespeare and others, a bit of a romantic element, and even a rather thrilling end!

I enjoyed reading this unique book, but felt the alternating chapters of past and present took away from the flow (for me). Famous people thrown in for no apparent reason, Tom's constant whining and headaches were "over done".

I especially enjoyed reading this with Diane, Jan, and Marialyce from The Traveling Sister Group. We were split on our love for this one, so you may want to give it a try.

Thanks to Edelweiss Plus for my ARC.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,184 reviews30.5k followers
March 9, 2018
4 original and captivating stars to How to Stop Time! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

If you are looking for something a little different, this is it! I always shout from the rooftops when I find an original book! I’ve read nothing even remotely like How to Stop Time. Tom Hazard looks like he’s 41 years old, but he’s been alive for centuries due to a condition that causes him to age slowly. Luckily for Tom, he has a support group of people like him, and the number one rule of the group is that you cannot fall in love for reasons one might expect. And there lies the rub. Will Tom make the sacrifices necessary to allow himself to fall in love?

This is not a time travel story per se. Tom is living through historical events as he ages slowly. Much of that exploration was fun for me to see whom he met and different things he did. We travel with Tom through four hundred years of his life, which at times felt on the long side. Other times, I was captivated by what was happening and watching love unfold.

Overall, I found the life lessons within these pages to be inspiring, and I was enthralled with Tom’s memorable story.

Many thanks to Matt Haig, Viking, and Edelweiss for the copy to review.
Profile Image for Whispering Stories.
2,757 reviews2,581 followers
June 22, 2017
Tom Hazard, just one one the names he has been know by, is 439 years old. He has a rare condition called Anageria, meaning that his body ages at a very slow rate. For every 15 years of his life, his body ages just one, a condition that began during puberty. This means that he now looks like a man in his 40s.

He has lived through many periods in history, met a lot of famous people from the past, and seen plenty of inventions brought to life.

There is a secret organisation set up to protect the people like Tom, called ‘The Albatross Society’, run by a man who is very, very old, Hendrich. The society gives protection to its members by moving them to new areas every eight years and providing them with new identities, plus they also kill anybody who discovers the truth about them.

Hendrich asks for one thing in return, ‘favours’ whenever he requires them. He also gives a word of warning to members of The Albatross Society; ‘Never Fall in Love’.

It is 2017 and Tom is now working as a history teacher in a London comprehensive school. With his knowledge of the past, he is very efficient at his job.

London is a place where he has lived once before, a place that holds many memories for him. It is a place that in one sense makes him feel at home, whilst in another haunts him.

Tom only has one wish in life, to be ordinary.

How to Stop Time, is one of those books that you get to the end and then sit back trying to take in just what you have read. This is a powerful novel about life, and living. Two very different things.

The book is very touching, and you can’t help but feel for Tom, a man who may have been alive for many years but one who can’t live a normal life. Imagine never being able to get close to anyone, never being able to tell anyone about yourself, and then every eight years you have to become someone else and move far away to start all over again.

The book makes you think about your own life, the actions that you take, and the choices that you make. Life is a learning curve, and even Tom is still learning.

The story goes back and forth in time, as you travel with Tom through different periods of his life. You get to witness history thorough the eyes of the man who has lived it. You also get to see the mistakes that people have made, over and over again. Sometimes the past isn’t so different from the present.

There is an honesty in Matt Haig’s words. A rawness that touches you, and whilst giving you a heart-warming feeling, they can also send shivers down your spine. The way that he looks at life, and sees not only the good, but the horrors that are created is unique.

This is a book about not taking yourself, or anyone else for granted. It’s about accepting, and understanding that life is precious, and we are the chosen few to experience it.

Just to emphasis how good this book is, it hasn’t even been released yet, but the film rights have already been bought and Benedict Cumberbatch has signed up to play Tom. I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to be able to fulfil the role.

Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com
Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews187 followers
September 22, 2018
To me, Matt Haig is one of those writers that can’t do much wrong. He’s the sort of bloke, along with others such as Jonathon Coe and David Nicholls, I’d like to have a pint with and put the world to rights. Somehow the cultural references in his books always hit the spot and there is a humanity, humour and generosity that that gives one faith in ........ um ........ fellow blokes.
How To Stop Time concerns Tom Hazard, Born in 1566 with a condition that makes him age extremely slowly. We join him in the present, teaching History in a London secondary school seemingly about 40 years old!
The plot jumps about epochs taking in a search for a lost daughter, meetings with famous people, iconic events and an entanglement with a sinister secret society.
You are always aware of Matt Haig’s voice and world view as you read his novels, but he hasn’t swallowed a Bible, he doesn’t push any extreme political agenda and doesn’t pretend to know the meaning of life and everything. His everyday wisdom and humour are drawn from his own experiences (some of them difficult judging by his previous non fiction books). His writings help make a little sense of the world around us and feel a little more empathy with those we share it with.
How To Stop time is good fun with lots of musing on the nature of time and history but the novel isn’t perfect - it could have been a little longer, some sections (and characters) could have had a little more depth and the ending seemed a bit rushed ............. but I still liked it a lot.

I’ve listed a few quotes below but I’m not sure how effective they’ll be out of context:

‘The key to happiness is finding the lie that suits you best’

‘All you can do with the past is carry it around, feeling it’s weight slowly increase, praying it never crushes you completely.’

‘As if the world is never big enough to hide in’

‘Change is what life is. It’s the only constant I know’

‘History is right here ....... it’s breathing down our necks.’

‘The past is never gone. It just hides’

‘You have to stop flicking ahead and just concentrate on the page you are on’
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
February 17, 2018
Barely 3 stars.

I feel like I’m in a bit of a fiction reading slump. Or maybe I’m just not picking novels that are not a good fit for me. It’s good to take a chance every now and then, but it sucks when I end up with little enthusiasm for a book that seems to be making others quite happy.

I rarely read books that are surreal or have magical elements. But sometimes I do and sometimes they work. How to Stop Time has a good premise. Tom is one of few people in the world who ages at a far slower pace than most humans. He was born in the 15th century, but by the 21st century he just looks middle aged. He has spent most of his life hiding who he is out of fear that his condition will put him and those he is close to in danger, so he wanders around changing identities every now and then. Over time, he has met a few people like himself, and he becomes part of a network of people who ostensibly try to look out for each other. The story moves back and forth in time, and plays around with the existential consequences of Tom’s anomalous condition. What are the consequences of falling in love? Of seeing the world change dramatically? Of having been present during significant historical moments that most people only know through history books? This is all the stuff that had me interested.

But what turned me off was a growing element of dark melodrama that reached what felt like an absurd peak at the end. I can’t say anything more to avoid spoilers. But it really felt like a great thought experiment devolved into silliness.

As I say, I feel like I’m in a reading a fiction reading slump, but I think I’ve been picking the wrong books for me. Lots of people are liking this one. To me it seemed like a good idea gone awry.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,257 reviews1,132 followers
November 27, 2022
“You see, I have a condition. I am old – old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old. I was born well over four hundred years ago, on the third of March 1581 …”

We only read a few sentences of How to Stop Time, before we learn this central conceit. Tom Hazard, who narrates the novel, is almost immortal. He looks in his late thirties – maybe forty – but ages very, very slowly, and has actually been alive for centuries. Tom suffers from a condition which used to be called “anageria”. He is over 400 years old; a French Huguenot who, as puberty began, realised that he aged at a different rate to everyone around him. For every thirteen or fourteen years of human ageing, he ages just one year.

It is both a dream and a curse. A dream or fantasy we can barely imagine, but when we do, we see the drawbacks. And many novelists before have explored and mused over the possibilities.

Matt Haig, the author of the 2017 novel How To Stop Time, often writes speculative fiction for both adults and children, and this is a familiar premise. Authors as diverse as Scott Fitzgerald and Martin Amis have postulated a life lived backwards, in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Time’s Arrow” respectively. Audrey Niffenegger’s protagonist in “The Tine Traveller’s Wife” had a genetic condition which made him spontaneously move through time. Virginia Woolf’s character “Orlando” did all this – and changed gender spontaneously too. H.G. Wells, Mark Twain and Stephen King have all dabbled with the concept. There is nothing new about Matt Haig’s idea, but he does write an engaging novel on the subject.

Put yourself in Tom’s position. What would you want out of life? The traditional, home and family? How long could you sustain this? Forget that then, and just live in the moment, for pleasure? How long would it be before the attraction wears off, and it begins to feel shallow and repetitive. Live for good works, and friends? Again, the suspicions would soon start. Whichever way you look at this it is a lonely sort of life, to see everyone around you age and die.

We see Tom in Elizabethan England, as a young boy. He appears the same as other young boys, perhaps a little smaller. From a poor family, he is quickly set to work as a labourer, but after a few years the whispering starts.

Around the time of puberty, Tom seems to stop ageing. He is perfectly healthy, and feels older inside, but he still looks as young as he did a few years ago. This is a time of superstitions and witchcraft. It is fairly obvious the sort of danger Tom and his family are in.

Hence the first rule is learned. Do not stay in the same place for too long. Otherwise you, or your loved ones may suffer terrible consequences. Especially in Elizabethan England, where punishment for being suspected a witch was a brutal and agonising death.

Rule number two had to be learned quite early too. Do not care too much about anyone, because you will have to leave them. Most certainly, do not fall in love. Tricky, this one. Tom seems to have to learn both these by experience, and it is to the author’s credit that he makes this believable, and makes us care about the protagonist.

We meet the lovely Rose, who sells apples in the market, and indulge in a little romantic fiction:

“We kissed and I closed my eyes and inhaled lavender and her, and I felt so terrified and so in love that I realised they – the terror, the love – were one in the same thing.”

“She laughs. It is the simplest, purest joy on earth, I realise, to make someone you care about laugh.”

(Actually, call me a softie, but I do quite like this latter one.)

What else do we need, to make us want to carry on reading? Ah yes, conflict, or a threat. Tom could carry on perfectly well in his near-immortality, as long as he changed his location every few years, and didn’t draw too much notice to himself. And tried not to fall in love again. What we need then, is a good old baddie. And we get it. Not only that, but we get an entire conspiracy subplot.

A mafia-like bully called Hendrich, who is even older than Tom at 900, (give or take a year) takes Tom under his wing, accurately describing Tom’s condition, and explaining that he is not the only one in existence. There are many like him, dotted around the world and so Hendrick has established a society to protect them. He argues that if “mays” or mayflies, (people with a normal lifespan) find their existence out, they would probably all be shut away, or experimented upon, or simply killed. In the 21st century, the “Albatross Society” claims to be protecting the “albas” from biotechnology entrepreneurs, who want their stem cells for research. In return for this protection, they have to … but that would be telling.

“Yesterday’s witchfinders are todays’s scientists.”

It’s quite neat, as a device for explaining Tom’s presence in the modern day. What often lets time travel books down, is that the solution somehow lies in the present day, or using present day thinking, (although admittedly it would be hard to do otherwise).

“I have been so many different people, played so many different roles in my life. I am not a person. I am a crowd in one body. I was people I hated and people I admired. I was exciting and boring and happy and infinitely sad.”

Matt Haig presents Tim quite convincingly, as a man in various centuries. He has to be well acquainted with what he can and cannot do, what he does and does not know, all the conventions of the time - and the details are present in the story quite naturally, without ever feeling laboured or heavy handed. Quite often they are slipped in as jokes.

Here’s a wry quip from Shakespeare’s time:

“It was clear the masses wanted far more than justice. They wanted entertainment”.

Or our contemporary world:

“there isn’t the option of putting 1581 [on Facebook] for your birthdate, anyway.”

“I drink some water and eat some cereal and then I take Abraham for a walk. He had spent the night eating the arm of the sofa but I don’t want to judge him. He has enough issues already”

And this one is timeless:

“For decades and decades and decades I have bemoaned people who say they feel old, but I now realise it is perfectly possible for anyone to feel old. All they need to do is become a teacher”.

We skip between the different eras. From Elizabethan England to present day New York, from Jazz-Age Paris to the South Seas. Tom has had a varied life so far, and through his eyes we meet many famous figures from the past. When you live many lives, you become adept at many special skills. Tom’s lute playing is so impressive that William Shakespeare hires him to play at the original production of “As You Like It”. (Why do they always meet Shakespeare? Why when someone is regressed into their past lives, are they always Napoleon, or Cleopatra?)

He witnesses the Great Fire of London first hand, (which is of great assistance when trying to convey this to bored 21st century teenagers). He sails to Tahiti with Captain Cook. He meets Samuel Johnson, and due to his exceptional piano playing skills, meets Charlie Chaplin, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and their entourage, and Gertrude Lawrence in a 1920s restaurant. All these episodes are drawn in a very lively way, and these scenes are very entertaining.

We are familiar with the idea of a character who lives for centuries, conveniently finding himself in the right place at the right time to meet and even interact with significant historical figures. Of course we always have to “go with” the story, rather than question why it is that our hero always seems to meet the most famous figures of the day.

In classic or literary authors, the conceit may be used to to examine the notion of time itself, and our relationship to it. Concepts such as the fear of ageing and death, or even the problems associated with not dying at all may be explored. But Matt Haig has a consistently light touch when reflecting on the larger issues. He does not get bogged down in period detail, nor in philosophical conundrums. He presents these encounters in an entertaining, slightly world-weary way. After all, Tom has seen it all before, many times.

“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”.

An important part of the plot concerns a Pacific islander “Omai”, who was famously painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds:

He too is also an “alba” who, making the most of his still-athletic body, works as a professional surfer in Australia.

What about the love interest? Hardboiled cynics we may be, but that is what drives many novels. What would “The Time Traveller’s Wife” be without the love interest?

What we have here is a thread which will run right through the novel. As a young man Tom fell in love with Rose. These parts become a little sentimental:

“And she placed the lute beside her on the bed and kissed me and I closed my eyes and the rest of the world faded. There was nothing else. Nothing but her. She was the stars and the heavens and the oceans”

Tom realises too late there are inevitably going to be drawbacks:

“I have been in love only once in my life. I suppose that makes me a romantic, in a sense. The idea that you have one true love, that no one else will compare after they have gone. It’s a sweet idea, but the reality is terror itself. To be faced with all those lonely years after. To exist when the point of you has gone.”

“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.”

but we always have the ironic comments, of our jaded protagonist (this time with another young lady, in a different time and place):

“I want to kiss her. I don’t know how to make that happen. I have been single for four centuries and have absolutely no idea of the etiquette”

A consequence of all this, is

The ending is a bit of cod philosophy I could have done without. There is a bit of musing over “mays”, and the perceptual differences of the centuries-old “albas” secretly living amongst us. But the feeling is that the author is groping around for some great truth to impart, and all he can come up with is quips:

“How many lifetimes does it take to learn how to live?”

“Why worry about the future? It always happens. That’s the thing about the future.”

It’s smart. It’s hokum. It’s farfetched. But it is a tale told convincingly with consummate ease, and passes an entertaining hour or two.

Oh, one little quibble. Matt Haig was born in Sheffield. So was I. Tom Hazard works in a school in Tower Hamlets, East London. So did I. What made me shout in disbelief was not any scientific speculation, but that he apparently got a job there in a private school! What were the odds, in this inner-city borough, with a mostly Sylheti community? I had never come across one, save for Faith schools. Intrigued, I googled, to find that yes, indeed, now there are just two. OK, I’ll have to let that pass then. But for authenticity, I feel he could have chosen some other London borough in which to set this “private” secondary school.

Another tidbit? Benedict Cumberbatch has been lined up to star in an upcoming film adaptation.

Much in How to Stop Time is pseudo-profound, as if it attempts to impart a great truth, but just misses the mark. The ending is a bit of esoteric pyschobabble, which to me feels like rather a damp squib:

“There is only the present. Just as every object on earth contains similar and interchanging atoms, so every fragment of time contains aspects of every other.

In those moments that burst alive the present lasts for ever, and I know there are many more presents to live. I understand you can be free. I understand that the way you stop time is by stopping being ruled by it. I am no longer drowning in my past, or fearful of my future. How can I be?

The future is you.”

My rating of this book is just touching 3 stars. I’ll end with a couple of lines I do like:

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

“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don’t expect, I feel civilisation has become a little safer.”
Profile Image for ❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀.
680 reviews144 followers
May 9, 2023
3 Stars.

Easy and likeable, but somewhat unsatisfying read.

Tom Hazard has a terrible case of existential angst brought on by the fact he's existed for over 400 years. His life is controlled by The Albatross Society, an organization for people with Tom's disorder, anageria, which causes a person to age at a very slow rate, leading to lives that can last for a millennia. The head of the society is Heindrich, a controlling and manipulative man who has set out a series of rules for himself and the other Albas to follow; never fall in love or get attached to regular humans, move every eight years and do whatever Heindrich tells you to do or else.

To control Tom, Heidrich has been promising since 1891 to find Tom's daughter Marion, also an Alba. It is only the hope of finding Marion that has kept Tom from ending his life. She is all he has left of Rose, a woman he loved and married in Shakespearean London.

Now Tom is leading a new life in London and he's tempted again by the idea of love and connection. He must decide what makes life worth living and what he's willing to risk to get it.

Although I did like this there were a few hiccups for me; the scenes set in Shakespearean London didn't quite ring true and Tom bumping into or meeting so many famous people felt contrived. Shakespeare and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald?

Thank you to Viking and Edelweiss for a copy of the book.
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
617 reviews20.5k followers
January 24, 2018
What if you could live for a 1,000 years? How would you choose to live? What will be your threats? Joys? These are the questions this book attempts to answer, all from the point of view of Tom Hazard.

Tom, our main character in this journey, has lived for over 400 years. He was born around Shakespeare times and has lived through some of the most important events in history. He is a member of the Albatross society, a society of men and women like him whose main rule is to live in anonymity and to not fall in love.

Then he meets someone at work and Tom starts to question the rules he has lived by for so long.

The story is told from the point of view of Tom and alternates between the present and the past. The author of this book (Matt Haig) wrote one of my top favorite books (The Humans), I mean, top five all-time-favorite book, and because of it I read all the books he publishes.

Overall, I liked the book but did not love it as much as The Humans. I recommend it to all readers of sci-fi and contemporary fiction.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Bianca.
1,083 reviews921 followers
March 5, 2018
I'm throwing in the towel at the 70% mark ... I can't take it anymore. I can't believe this is the same author as the one who wrote The Humans.

After reading and enjoying The Humans, I was eager to give this one a go, despite the fact that "time travel" and other such concepts don't necessarily float my boat, but I was willing to sail away with it.

I got the audiobook for this, as I enjoy British accents, plus, it was easier to fit in with other reading.

Honestly, I was getting murderous thoughts towards the hero, Tom Hazard, who was four hundred something years old. Oh, the moaning, and the over-explaining, and the self-pity - I wanted to slap him or worse.

I was willing to suspend my disbelief, after all, I did it successfully with The Humans. But I just couldn't. It felt as if Haig took the history book out and then picked some events and some cool historical figures, just to spice things up a little. I used to be a huge history buff. Re-acquainting myself with some historical events and meeting important historical figures via Tom Hazard - should have been interesting. Alas, no! It was lacking authenticity and it felt too much like reading journal entries: "today I went there and met this person. And oh, I feel so lonely and so, so sad. I need love" *Insert rolling eyes. You see, in order to continue to live his miserable life, he couldn't fall in love again. So the poor guy has been single for centuries. He seems to have been celibate for centuries as well. Oh, and despite meeting so many important people in different parts of the world, he just couldn't find his daughter, who'd inherited his condition - which was why he still wanted to keep living.

The premise was good, the execution though was uninspired and a bit too much like a readers digest of historic events and who's who of historical figures.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,471 reviews1,009 followers
April 12, 2017
How To Stop Time is a beautiful work of fiction – you know I read a lot of books (this is actually book 120 for me of 2017) and I don’t think I have ever read an author that just grasps and conveys the vagaries of human nature quite like Matt Haig does – in a way that makes you feel like he is writing just for you. The emotional sense of his writing is enduring and never anything less than compelling no matter the story being told or the premise that starts it.

So there is that – and How To Stop Time falls firmly under page turner, with a dash of passionate prose, a smattering of emotional trauma and a big hit of poignant insightful commentary on the human race. Pretty much what this author does in a nutshell.

Tom is one of those characters that will stay with you long after you have finished reading his story – and what a story it is. He is old, plagued (or blessed maybe that will be subjective) with a condition that means he ages at a much slower rate. Not immortal but feeling that way, he is part of history and an observer of it – we see him over time, at his best and his worst, this is a love story with a touch of mystery and is hugely gripping from the very first page until the tear inducing poignant finale.

I won’t give away much, this is one of those books that everyone will come to in their own way and will take from it different things – but Matt Haig manages to bring history alive on the page here through Tom and what he experiences, it almost feels as if you are living it with him. The characters he and we meet along the way all come with their own peculiarities and sense of self, the story weaves somewhat of a magic spell on the reader, or it did on me at least I was totally immersed into this one all the way.

The thing about stories is that they transport you to other places, make you think about other things. When you have a master storyteller at work it becomes so much less about construction and literary merit and all of those bookish things that as a reviewer I’m supposed to be perhaps commenting on – and just becomes about you, as a reader, in those few short moments of time you are living in that other world. Matt Haig is simply, when you remove the white noise, a master storyteller.

I loved this book. Just that.

Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Ron.
394 reviews97 followers
April 19, 2019
The answer is in there. How to stop time, I mean. Somewhere in the middle of the story, and then a little differently at the end. What is said may not be what you expect, but it's a good saying for sure. True and meaningful. It evokes feeling. So did this book. I get the impression that when Haig writes he is thinking about real life as much as how the words placed on a page speak to the reader - not simply to the story. Therefore, they say a little more. They have meaning. I'm not saying that this book is philosophy. It's still just a work of fiction, but I think it will stay with me a little longer for the words.

So how do you stop time? You have to venture into the book of course. But the hint is, it involves other people, as most things do. Try as the main character Tom does to avoid others, whether to protect them, or keep his secret hidden, he cannot live as an island. The past holds painful memories for him, but within those same memories is joy. I'll leave it off with one character's quote from the story that says so much for a short sentence: “You have to choose to live.��
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
January 30, 2018
5 truly wonderful stars

Your life is a gift. We are all given a certain amount of time to make the most of it. In some cases the years spread out before us while for others their time here is cut short. “Life isn’t meant to be lived perfectly…but merely to be LIVED. Boldly, wildly, beautifully, uncertainly, imperfectly, magically LIVED.”

Tom Hazard has time. In fact he has loads of time. You see Tom has a special condition which allows him to be a semi immortal. He ages slowly, ever so slowly, and by the time we meet him, he is over four hundred years old. In the fifteen hundreds, Tom falls in love with a fruit seller in Shakespearean London and of course she ages, while Tom doesn't. They have a daughter born like Tom. However, the fact of Tom's inability to age, raises the specter of witchcraft and deals made with the devil. Tom is desperate and realizes he must leave, leave the woman and child he adores for their safety and hide, never to see his beloved Rose or his daughter.

This was a sad but telling tale of the idea of what is life. There was so many wonderful concepts and ideas that Mr Haig brings forth in this novel. The hurt we feel for Tom who is eventually pursued by a nine hundred year old bad guy, (who incidentally just wants what is best for the Albatrosses as they call themselves). He ultimately convinces Tom to go to "work" for him. Tom is guaranteed anonymity and is required to move every eight years. The society will always provide for him. Tom is not alone, there are other albatrosses who must be convinced they need the society's protection. Secrecy is the key. Most of all Tom and the albatrosses must never fall in love and they need to keep their secret or people will die, those people being us, the Mayflies.

Tom and Mr Haig take us on a historical adventure meeting and seeing some notables throughout the centuries that Tom has lived. They both makes us believe, with the ability to feel with your heart the struggles, (what many might feel is idyllic) to live while others around you die. It was a book that I could hardly put aside, one that filled me with a case of wonder and delight even as I read of Tom's hardships. Finding and fulfilling the life you are given is a gift. It is one that we all should search for. For Tom, he found that wondrous ability to be just as life has always wanted him to be, alive, free to love, and enjoy the moments of just plain being.

Thank you to Matt Haig, PENGUIN GROUP Viking and Netgalley for providing an ARC of this beautiful novel.
Profile Image for Carol.
835 reviews499 followers
February 23, 2018
The Hook - Many fine and rave reviews by my GoodReads friends including this one by convinced me to scoff up this book toot sweet, or as kindly corrected by C., tout de suite. It was this line in Gail's review that was the clincher.

”I can only liken this to the feeling one gets after a long, hot and dry summer spell which is broken by a torrential downpour of rain. It is, quite simply, a breath of fresh air and just wonderful.”

The Line(s) - ”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? Ho, in short, do you live?”

The Sinker - I am a huge fan of time travel and though How To Stop Time is not that genre, its nod to time in main character, Tom Hazard’s rare condition of a longevity we can only imagine, is alluring. Though Tom does not travel to the past or future, we do as his story spans more than 400 hundred years. To understand the present, Tom takes us back to his beginnings, as he struggles with the realities of his future. As we journey with him a wish we might desire, to live forever, may dwindle as what this truly means sinks in. It is the expertise of the author to nudge our mind to see the truth of Tom’s life, his loves, his happiness countered with loss, loneliness; his pleasure vs. his pain. A love story for all time at its core may be the driving force of this book but for me it was so much more. Not exactly what I expected but very well received by this reader.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 16,048 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.