Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Thief of Time” as Want to Read:
The Thief of Time
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Thief of Time

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,516 ratings  ·  257 reviews
John Boyne has become internationally known for his acclaimed novels Crippen and the bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Now, for the first time in the United States, comes the book that started the career of the author that the Irish Examiner calls "one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers."

It is 1758 and Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris a
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Thief of Time, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Thief of Time

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,516 ratings  ·  257 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Thief of Time
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boyne is a storyteller , and a really good one!I really enjoyed reading this story because of the message it conveyed, life should be lived to the fullest and most importantly there are always lessons to be learned, always!
History has the tendency to repeat itself until one is able to see, to fully grasp what life is and what living really means....
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book could have been great as the premise was full of potential. Matthieu Zela is born in Paris in 1743 and when he reaches the age of around fifty years old, he realises that he has stopped aging. His story is told in flashbacks of his adventures over the centuries, interspersed with his present day life in the year 1999.

Over the course of his 256 years Matthieu has first hand experience of some pivotal moments in history - the French Revolution, the Wall Street crash, McCarthyism. He fli
Rich Stoehr
May 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"And I am not one of these long-living fictional characters who prays for death as a release from the captivity of eternal life; not for me the endless whining and wailing of the undead."

With these words, written on the first few pages of his novel "The Thief of Time," John Boyne pretty much sold me on the central idea of the book: a man who is over 250 years old but looks like a man in his late 40's or early 50's, and who has looked essentially the same for about 200 years.

Matthieu Zela, the lo
Apr 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
I was really attracted by the title and description, so I grabbed a book expecting some thrilling epic reading. But i was completely disappointed: a fantastic idea turned into some boring so-called plot, jumping from one so-called plot line to another, omitting the details and leaving a total mess in the mind. Honestly I never made it to the end, I just got tired of not understanding what on earth the book was about and what the author was going to tell the readers with this piece of literature. ...more
The premise of this book is so interesting: a man who stops ageing and lives through some of the most interesting and turbulent times of the modern era. And the parts where Matthieu encountered famous historical figures or took part in important historical moments were the most interesting aspect of this book for me.

I feel like Boyne was interested most of all in the historical events and figures, and wanted to tell a story about someone who could be involved in all that history, but the other t
Sep 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The problem with going back and reading a favorite author's earlier works is that it's inevitably disappointing. You can see the promise, just not the fulfillment of it. This is a nicely written book about a 250 year old man who was born in 18th century france. It has a very Forrest Gump-ian dynamic where he's involved in many of history's biggest events, and interacts with everyone from Robespierre to Charlie Chaplin. A stronger editor could have shaped the narrative better--instead it's a seri ...more
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Boyne is definitely a born story teller and I greatly enjoyed this novel in which he takes the reader on an interesting journey through history.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I don't even know where to start... This was probably the most boring book I have ever read. It sounded like a really great concept and then just ended up being a tremendously disappointing tale of a man who has lived for a long time seeing lots of things, people die and time goes on. You never really learn why his time stops, or why the Tomas's kept dying early, it was just how it was :( Only reason I finished was because I thought surely something exciting would happen... nope. Also the book c ...more
Lizzie Friendship
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read... Boyne's first novel and one that is definitely worth taking a look at... Each chapter is like a mini history lesson in itself! ...more
Fran Blake
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
The House of Special Purpose & The Boy in the Striped Pajamas were both really good books. This one didn't do it for me. ...more
Cathal Kenneally

Having read his books before, I was looking forward to reading this. I love the way he mixes stories from different time epochs and blends them. At first glance they don't seem to make sense but as the story unfolds gradually it does make for a great read
Emily Morgan
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
In the end I found this book to be a big disappointment especially given how much I enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I was enjoying the story at first, and I thought the premise had a lot of potential.

Cons: I found the ending to be predictable.

But most of all it was the dodgy historical contexts that really killed enjoyment of the story for me. If it had been just one mistake, then I could have looked past it, even though the book relies totally on history for its plot. But there was far m
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it
"On the other hand, I could have misjudged her. She could love him. Simple as that. She could know the sickening, aching pain that goes with love. She could know how it feels to be aware of someone's presence in a building, even when you're not together; she could know how it feels to be hurt and damaged and crucified by someone and still be unable to shake them from your head, no matter how hard you try, no matter how many years you are apart; she could know that, even years later, all it would ...more
James Fitzgerald
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
This John Boyne novel was a huge disappointment, I have read six Boyne novels and enjoyed them immensely all have been 4 & 5 star ratings The Heart invisible Furies I would give this book a 6 star rating Crippen 5, the Absolutist 5, A history of loneliness 5, Next of Kin 5, A boy in the striped pajamas4 star.

The book premise is Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris with his half brother Tom when he meets the love of his life Dominique the year is 1758 the adventure begins. I believe this part of the b
I really wanted to like this book as the premise is so interesting, but the story failed to deliver. It felt like a series of detached observations about individual incidents rather than a really story. There's not much of a plot and nothing over much happens.

The basic idea is great, but the characters, especially the main one, Mathieu, are quite unappealing. I kept reading purely because I was hoping it would spring to life, but it never did.
Carol Scheherazade
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So. How many books have I read in my life? Thousands. How many authors have I said are one of my favorites? A few. Well Mr John Boyne has cemented himself as number 1. His books have all captured me, even the ones not rated so high on Goodreads!
I’ve loved ALL his books , including this one. He’s def changed as an author but each book has something in it that totally enthralled me. Including this one.
Senne Voorspoels
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I eat newborn babies :)))
Mary Lou
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish
Matthieu, born at the end of the 18th century, finds at the age of fifty- odd that he has stopped aging. As each episode of his life ends, he moves around the World and starts another, moving through times of war and famous events and coming across the rich and infamous from the past.
With similar themes to his recent The Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, that there is little new under the sun, this is a good story well told.
A Thief if Time appears to be John Boyne’s first novel, and if so, it’s
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved the concept of the book and how it conveyed the message of history repeating itself until people try to understand and listen. However, I think that often the book jumped around to much and was sometimes quite difficult to keep up with.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not as good as his most recent, I liked this. I liked the structure especially.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2020, own
I loved this novel! As Boyne's first adult novel, it was very impressive. ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a surprisingly good read, almost a series of short stories with an interweaving of two bookend longer stories that tied the whole thing together. I enjoyed the premise, the writing and the stories.
Aug 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, sci-fi, z-2011
This book was an interesting exploration of the life of a man who stopped aging around his 50s and his interactions (lots of them) with people that he encounters throughout his immense lifespan. Most important is his relationship with his brother's descendants, who seem to fall into the same self-destructive habits and patterns as their fathers.

Because of Mr. Zela's (Matthieu, please) condition, he has experienced many things and Boyne gives us a tour of England in the late 1700s, the French Re
Robert Palmer
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
WOW! If I had only one word to describe this book it would be WOW !Matthiew Zeia is born in Paris in 1743 and by 1758 after his Mother has been murdered by his Stepfather he along with his half Brother Thomas he flees Paris. On the boat to England he meets Dominique ( 4 or 5 years his senior ) they stay together in England for the next few years.
By the time Matthiew is in his mid 50s he stops aging, and in 1999 he is the major stockholder in a satellite broadcasting station and his Great-nephew
Evie Pey
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book, it is very unusual. It's a story that I have never read before which is very unusual and it is so well written it pulls you in. I will definitely read another by this author. ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Matthieu Zela, the narrator of this novel, was born in Paris in 1743. By 1999 (the present day for the novel) he is 256 years old, but has not aged noticeably for more than two centuries, and still appears to be a healthy, sprightly man in early middle age.

The novel takes the form of three separate narratives, one recounting Zela’s early experiences, and his departure from Paris as a teenager, and his struggles to establish himself in England. In this he is accompanied by Dominique, a beautiful
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boyne’s first novel is a uniquely constructed blend of three narratives that are connected by an equally unique protagonist/narrator, Matthieu Zéla—a 256-year-old man who has stopped aging and is seemingly immortal.

The first narrative tells the story of Zéla’s youth in 18th century France and England. This tale focuses mainly on Matthieu’s unrequited love for a woman named Dominique, who—for various reasons—poses as his sister during their travels through the English countryside with Matthieu’s
SiSi O'Driscoll
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As soon as I read the description for this I knew I would love it. It had real Age of Adeline vibes and I loved that movie. It's like a touch of supernatural but is still vert realistic and takes place in the world as we know it.

I didn't actually realise this was Boyne's first book and after reading it, it made a lot more sense to me why he released a book like A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom early this year (you can find the review for that book on the blog as well). I thought A Traveller a
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the story of an individual, Matthieu Zela, who stopped growing old towards the end of the 18th century and is told from his perspective as at 1999 as time moves towards the new millennium. We are not told the reason for this which is a little irritating. The book deals with his life on several levels. First, there is a linear narrative of his escape from Paris to England in the 1760s with his younger half brother, Tomas, and a girl Domenique whom they meet on the boat to England. Th ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really drawn to this book - not from the front cover (because that's incredibly wrong in the book world!) but because I'd read work by the author before I was really interested.

The blurb and the title really drew me towards what I thought would be an interesting and mysterious read. Maybe I'd be able to read about the character, Matthieu and what his world had become in recent years compared to what it was like when he was a youngster. Alas, no.

The thrilling read I was expecting did not
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Home Stretch
  • Be Cool (Chili Palmer, #2)
  • Love After Love
  • Ask No Questions
  • Hier is alles veilig
  • Strange Flowers
  • Hamnet
  • Independence Square
  • The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye
  • The Other Half of Augusta Hope
  • San Miguel
  • Of Fire and Night (The Saga of Seven Suns, #5)
  • Scattered Suns (The Saga of Seven Suns, #4)
  • Soldier of Sidon (Latro #3)
  • Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classrooms
  • Paycheck
  • The Magic Circle
  • Vaslav
See similar books…
John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he won the Curtis Brown prize. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by UEA.

John Boyne is the author of ten novels for adults and five for young readers, as well as a collection of short stories.

His novel

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
33 likes · 3 comments
“The history that one can create with a friend, a lifetime of history and shared experience, is a wonderful thing and shabbily sacrificed. And yet a true friend is a rare thing; sometimes those whom we perceive as friends are simply people with whom we spend a lot of time.” 8 likes
“However, as the consequences of Black Thursday began to settle in investors’ minds, most people attempted to recover their losses and the dramatic selling began again. On Tuesday 29 October, the day of the Wall Street Crash, more than 16 million shares were dumped in an afternoon of trading. On that one single day, as much money was lost on the New York stock exchange as had been spent in its entirety by the US government on fighting the First World War. It was a disaster. Annette” 3 likes
More quotes…