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Past Book Club Discussions > How to Stop Time. Your August Book Club is open

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message 1: by Bonnie G. (last edited Jul 28, 2018 08:27PM) (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
A few days early, August book club commences. I hope everyone had a chance to read our book, How to Stop Time.

There was a lot of good here, but it turned out to be a 3 star read for me. Enjoyable, but not a book that rocked my world.

I thought the larger storyline was good. I liked the anageria (extremely slow aging) idea. I liked that agelessness had turned from something that could get you burned as a witch to something so valued labs in Berlin were trying to artificially emulate it so everyone could live hundreds of years. Times do change. I absolutely bought that such a condition would be seen as witchcraft in the middle ages. That part of the story resonated for me, and I really appreciated the beginning of the writing about Tom's early life. When I started this I thought it was going to be at least a 4 star read. But the current day story was so convoluted. To me it made no sense at all. Yes, labs would be wanting to study anageria because these days everyone wants to live forever for some reason (not me, but its clearly a thing for others.) What I didn't understand at all was the whole Albatross Society, particularly Hendrick. What was his deal? Why did he care if research was done on anageria? Why was he killing people? What would it matter if current day people found out about the people with anageria. Was he going for a Color of Water thing, like the albas would be locked up and experimented upon and treated like nothing more than specimens? I don't think that is likely. It would be uncomfortable perhaps, but nothing that would merit a global assassin network. That whole thing was absurd to me.

I liked that Haig made Tom an everyman, but that had a downside as well. After living 400 years he was dull as oatmeal. You would think by the mere act of living that long one would get interesting, but apparently not. In fact it was quite the opposite. Tom managed to make the Globe Theater at the height of Shakespeare's popularity and and hanging out with the Lost Generation superstars at Ciro's in the 20's really boring. (Of course he was going to run into these people, and only the really famous ones. Scott and Zelda, Gertrude and Alice, Sherwood Anderson, all accounted for, but meet none of the dozens of other Ciro's regulars who don't show up in everyone's Norton's Anthology.) Go ahead and make Tom the Forest Gump of the anageria set, but make it fun Tom takes all of the joy out of these moments he is placed into. Tom is a fun-sucker, a Debbie Downer, a buzzkill of the highest order. That brought the book down,

Another thing that bugged me was the story with the thug kid and his gang. Why was it included? If the suggestion is that we can turn thugs into College Possible candidates by engaging them in the study of history I would urge Haig to rethink that.

Also, what was with the Marion storyline? For a reunion 400ish years in the making, it was pretty blah and wholly lacking in emotion. I assume this was because of Tom's fun-suckage? For someone who spent 100s of years feeling guilty about procreating and making another Alba (SPOILER) he seems fine and dandy with his decision to procreate again. If the message is "love conquers all" I think we all know better and have an issue with that.

An easy read which raised some interesting questions but which lagged in the middle mostly because I did not understand anyone's motivations for their actions and also because of the aforementioned fun suckage. The lag also might have been because Haig had a lot of good ideas here, and a lot of admirable moral messages he wanted to feature, and I think maybe didn't think them through enough to create a cohesive story.


message 2: by Sara (new)

Sara | 99 comments I agree with some of your criticisms. I also gave it three stars, on the higher end because I didn't so much mind his convenient involvement with notable figures in history - I think, if one is going with this conceit, then Forrest Gumping it is a natural consequence. All the other eras we didn't peek into were probably absent such figures and therefore not worth visiting, because I agree that Tom himself was...not so interesting. I liked the middle of the book the most because they were fun in that way, whereas the should-be emotional climax of his reunion with Marion was flat.

Hendrich was paranoid, burned (figuratively) by witch hunts and ostracism. I thought the narrative strongly implied that albas had been the subject of torture in the guise of "science" over the centuries, so it makes sense to me that he would be afraid of any kind of research. I had a harder time buying that no one would have challenged his leadership, and that he could have maintained a massive surveillance network pre-computers without revealing the anageria secret to an awful lot of people.

I wouldn't have characterized Anton as a "thug." He was a disengaged kid with some bad influences, per the conversation with his mother. Getting academically revitalized via a single educator is cliche, for sure, but it wasn't a full 180.


message 3: by Christine (new)

Christine (goodreadscomprayerposemom) | 2 comments I gave it 4 stars, but maybe that was because lately I've been reading books that I've had to really THINK about; this was a light, quick read. I enjoyed the walk through history Tom took the reader on more than anything else.

I agree with you both about Hendrich. I really never understood his purpose in the story. For me, it was a distraction from Tom's observations about different periods in history. And for his extreme control over the Albas, especially Tom, Hendrich's death seemed rather oddly against character and out of place at the end. Same as you said about Marion. For as much as it seemed to drive the plot forward, it was a let-down when they finally reunited.

By the way, I tried to paste this image, but it won't work, so I've included the link. Having read this book, you guys might appreciate it.

https://scontent-atl3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/...


message 4: by Siobhan (last edited Aug 02, 2018 05:53PM) (new)

Siobhan | 14 comments I enjoyed the story and reading about Tom in the different time periods. I felt like it jumped quite quickly from middle to resolution. I would have wanted to see more of a love story with Camille. He went from some interactions to a baby on the way very quickly. I liked the relationship between Tom and Marion at the end but agree that it could have been a bigger moment when they were reunited - they hadn't seen each other for hundreds of years!!


message 5: by Alicia (new)

Alicia (thebeeka) | 42 comments I liked this book, I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could.
I agreed with all of your points, Siobhan. Tom and Camille had a sweet moment in the park but that was about it. The love story and the reunion between Tom and Marion all felt rushed.
I know this was/is supposed to be adapted in to movie with Benedict Cumberbatch and I wonder about the timing of the movie deal and if that influenced the rather dramatic and filmic death of Hendrich.


message 6: by Amy (new)

Amy (xj2608) I thought the book was just OK - I gave it 3 stars, but felt that was generous. There really wasn't much of anything going on...much like aging slowly over the course of several hundred years, I suppose. I'm probably just disappointed that the Marion plotline essentially came to nothing. Searching for your child for 400 years should have resulted in something more satisfying, I think. I'd watch Benedict Cumberbatch in it, though - seems like it would be something that would adapt well to a movie.


message 7: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "I thought the book was just OK - I gave it 3 stars, but felt that was generous. There really wasn't much of anything going on...much like aging slowly over the course of several hundred years, I su..."

I also felt like it could make a good movie even though I wasn't a particular fan of the book, In book form, nearly nothing made sense to me. The whole Albatross Society, the flat Marion reunion, the "love" story with Camille which has no basis at all, the inclusion of the "I saved a thug" sub plot (and yes, he was disengaged, but that is true of a lot of thug kids -- if you are committing armed robbery for kicks, you are a thug), the weird decision to include intricate descriptions of what each person ate at meals, it was all just baffling. But the bones of the story, a man forced to be in the world with no end in sight, love made impossible by circumstance, and the pain of being separated from a beloved child because of an the hatred and ugliness of most people (this is very relevant at the moment), that is good movie fodder.


message 8: by Bonnie G. (last edited Aug 03, 2018 09:00PM) (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Sara wrote: "I agree with some of your criticisms. I also gave it three stars, on the higher end because I didn't so much mind his convenient involvement with notable figures in history - I think, if one is goi..."

I didn't mind the Forest Gump thing either, I mostly liked the idea, but he made it so unspeakably boring. Being in those times is an interesting in itself, that is why there are so many time travel stories. He did actually create a story around the Shakespeare experience. But for the Paris story he didn't bother to do anything but drop names and relate a single conversation and that was such a missed opportunity. I will bet in the movie they really expand those scenes.

Christine wrote: "I gave it 4 stars, but maybe that was because lately I've been reading books that I've had to really THINK about; this was a light, quick read. I enjoyed the walk through history Tom took the reade..."

LOL, conclusive proof of anageria!

Siobhan wrote: "I enjoyed the story and reading about Tom in the different time periods. I felt like it jumped quite quickly from middle to resolution. I would have wanted to see more of a love story with Camille...."


I could not agree more with this! It is hard to believe a man who had not fallen in love in 400 years would be swept away based on one good date.


message 9: by Kris (new)

Kris | 252 comments Mod
I liked this book - it was a very quick read, but there were way too many loose ends regarding the Albatross Society. We're made to believe that Hendrich is some all powerful manipulator with a network of people working for him WORLDWIDE, and yet, Omai and Tom just decide that they're not going to participate anymore...

Um, that seems unlikely.

So, to me, we needed to know what happens to Agnes, and who takes over the Albatross Society, or at the very least an explanation that H was really the ONLY one in control and that the "network" was just a ruse to get people to do what he wanted them to do. Even Omai was like, "So you joined the Mafia?" You can't just OPT OUT of the Mafia.

And, the Marion storyline was SO under developed. In one sense, this book could have easily been 100 more pages, because we needed more of Marion and where she had gone and what had shaped her. And how she came to be in a place where she really believed that her father had abandoned her. As intuitive and smart as she was, you'd think she would have been able to keep hope alive...

And, I totally agree that Tom was the most boring of boring people, despite his hundreds of years on earth. The romance with Camille needed at least 20 more pages of exposition before she was suddenly pregnant.

It feels like the author just ran out of steam and wanted to end the story, rather than giving it the fleshing out and ending it needed. I did appreciate the existential questions he posed, though.


message 10: by Alicia (new)

Alicia (thebeeka) | 42 comments Yes, Kris. I would’ve loved to have known how Marion ended up the way she did, how she survived, and why she so easily believed her father didn’t love her.


message 11: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
"And, the Marion storyline was SO under developed. In one sense, this book could have easily been 100 more pages, because we needed more of Marion and where she had gone and what had shaped her. And how she came to be in a place where she really believed that her father had abandoned her. As intuitive and smart as she was, you'd think she would have been able to keep hope alive..."

Agreed! They could have made up for the extra pages by excising the international assassins storyline!


message 12: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments I got it from the library today!


message 13: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "I got it from the library today!"

Hooray! Looking forward to your thoughts.


message 14: by Allie (new)

Allie (allieeveryday) | 114 comments It sounds like I might have been the only one to be kind of irritated by all the historical people that popped up in this book. I mean, not everyone in the world meets someone super-famous during their lifetime; and to have lived four-to-five lifetimes and had as many experiences ... I'm not buying it.

I do really appreciate the further discussion of Hendrich and his motivations, because I totally bought everything he was trying to do, including the manipulation of Marion (though I wasn't totally clear on WHY he didn't want Tom and Marion to know about each other. I also was dissatisfied with the Camille storyline.

I also think it's interesting how many of ya'll disliked Tom so much - I didn't think of him as a fuddy-duddy, more just a regular guy who didn't ask for this life and has dealt with depression for a long time (and treatment then wasn't a Thing, or at least not a thing you wanted to try). But I guess when I write that out, regular life isn't really why we read novels, and how many of us IRL would make a super fantastic main character? (A novel about me would probably be pretty dull.)


message 15: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Nothing in the book was very realistic, so the Forest Gump thing didn't bug me. I do always laugh at the people who claim past lives because they are always people of consequence, never shoemakers or ditch diggers. I was also forgiving because Tom did have lives that were in fact undistinguished, where he was just a guy it town.

I did not dislike Tom, or like him. He seemed like a nice enough guy. But he did not have the presence to carry the book. He was dull, and the kind of person who always brings down the party. When you can make meeting Scott and Zelda seem ho hum, you are the problem, not them.


message 16: by Hayley (new)

Hayley Mac | 24 comments Just started - 10% through - and enjoying it but this thread is making me think I won’t love it!!


message 17: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Ignore the thread! I hated Shadow of the Wind, The Seven Husbands on Eleanor Hugo, and evertthing by Kristen Hannah, and I dislike all. Different books for different readers. I will say though that I loved the begining of thr book too and felt it went downhill later. (Also, I didn't hate this book at all.)


message 18: by Sara (new)

Sara | 99 comments Allie: I think Hendrich needed Tom and Marion to need him so that they'd continue working for the Albatros Society, so he kept their quests never-ending as long as he could.


message 19: by Pamela (last edited Aug 16, 2018 09:11AM) (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Hooray! Looking forward to your thoughts. !"
I'm about 80% done and I agree with everyone- he sure was dull for having lived so long. But he also alluded to some things where I was like "that sounds interesting, what did you do?" Can't help but feel the story of Hendrich would have been a better book. I feel my final review of this will be like so many other books I've read this year "not a waste of time but not earth shaking either." I'm listening to it and the reader is quite good. I can't help thinking it needs more but then it would be a huge book and I could not take tom that long. Maybe a series around Hendrich cause then you could go into so many different lives.
One thing is I kept thinking "what if it was me, what would I do?" And I might be quite as boring as Tom. With a 8 year or so limit on an endeavor, what can one do? I'm missing innate talent to do things like be a dancer or musician or physicist. It would be fun when you looked in your 20s and you could just keep going to college. I've recently moved to a new part of the world and the lack of curiosity of people into one's life amazes me. It would be easy enough to do the change and slip in. But I can't think of grand things I would want to do to make it worth living centuries. I could get really involved in political causes- so womens rights a decade, another for environment, animals,, refuges, peace, etc. Learn to paint. Learn carpentry. Live in different places around the world. But the decade rule in a way is very limiting. You write the great American novel which will take about ten years...and then you move on. You have a great restaurant... and then you move on. I've been thinking about this a whole lot while reading this and I think I would spend centuries boring and depressed like Tom because what is the point.
There's that cliche that the specter of death is what makes life valuable so if there is no specter of death, how do you find value? I'm not done yet, but judging from your reviews, Tom doesn't find a cure and mortality. That would have been interesting. Or even if he had met someone who had because then he would be forced to look at life differently.


message 20: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "Hooray! Looking forward to your thoughts. !"
I'm about 80% done and I agree with everyone- he sure was dull for having lived so long. But he also alluded to some things where I was like "that sound..."


Great thoughts! You really sparked my imagination. You know, your plan sounds really appealing to me. I am not big on adulation, so it would be cool to write the Great American Novel and then disappear, watching from the safety of anonymity with my new identity as my work is anthologized and the History Channel investigates my disappearance. So too my Michelin 3-star restaurant, my success as a Hollywood stylist, my solution to climate change, my dissertation on historical obsession with sisters from the Marches to the Bouvier's to the Bynes' to the Kardashians. I have attention issues, so this sounds like heaven to me, and with hundreds of years to learn, one would be able to be ahead of even their most talented peers so their work would have more impact. I don't think I would be boring or bored in the least. And you can't really make someone give up love, just permanence.


message 21: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Bonnie wrote: "I don't think I would be boring or bored in the least. And you can't really make someone give up love, just permanence. "

Oh no, I would have at least one decade sitting on my sofa knitting :) And there would be lots of reading. I would devote a decade to finally reading War & Peace. While living in St Petersburg,

And I would also try to find a great love. That would make it all worth it. Do we think Rose was really Tom's Great Love? I don't think so. He kinda seems to have fallen into it and found more comfort than ecstasy, I would find that great love and not leave him after a decade but find a way to come in and out of each other's lives. And I would also be like Hendrich and do lots of tom catting around :) Could have a whole decade spent purely living the life of a great flirt enjoying flings (oh wait, that was my 20s)


message 22: by Bonnie G. (last edited Aug 18, 2018 01:43PM) (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "Bonnie wrote: "I don't think I would be boring or bored in the least. And you can't really make someone give up love, just permanence. "

Oh no, I would have at least one decade sitting on my sofa ..."


War and Peace in St. Petersburg! I like the way you think! (Also we seem to have thought the same way about how to live in our 20's. I am so grateful I did not waste my flat stomach and no mortgage years!)

Haig should have read War and Peace. Tolstoy knew a thing or two about tragic romance.


message 23: by Kris (new)

Kris | 252 comments Mod
If you were motivated, you could certainly hone a lot of skills/develop your talents. And even though Tom appeared to be quite musically gifted, he just had no JOY about ANYTHING. It wasn’t even that I found him dull... just joyless. And given the deaths of his mother and the love of his life, I get it... but at some point, mentally healthy people do feel joy again.


message 24: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Kris wrote: "If you were motivated, you could certainly hone a lot of skills/develop your talents. And even though Tom appeared to be quite musically gifted, he just had no JOY about ANYTHING. It wasn’t even th..."

Perfect word. He was joyless. And not just after his losses. We know nothing of him before his mother's lynching, but he was joyless WITH Rose. Their relationship seemed contented, but no more.


message 25: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Bonnie wrote: "Kris wrote: "If you were motivated, you could certainly hone a lot of skills/develop your talents. And even though Tom appeared to be quite musically gifted, he just had no JOY about ANYTHING. It w..."

I dunno, it's not like his memories of his mom were so happy. He doesn't look back on "I was happy then"


message 26: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "Bonnie wrote: "Kris wrote: "If you were motivated, you could certainly hone a lot of skills/develop your talents. And even though Tom appeared to be quite musically gifted, he just had no JOY about..."

That is what I meant, there is no happiness. He may have had a jamboree before we enter the story, but we see nothing happy


message 27: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Bonnie wrote: "That is what I meant, there is no happiness. He may have had a jamboree before we enter the story, but we see nothing happy ."

I doubt it since its been centuries he's been obsessing about Rose who I never thought he loved so much (the other option is maybe Haig is just not that great a writer and can't communicated the love.) And he says he's never gotten past it.


message 28: by Hayley (new)

Hayley Mac | 24 comments I enjoyed this book but I agree it was a bit all over the place. I think maybe he tried to fit too many subplots into one (fairly slimline) novel. I love anything in the time travel vein so this is up my street, but it just didn’t quite work. Agree the characters weren’t fleshed out quite right. Lots of nice prose though!


message 29: by Suzy (new)

Suzy D. I agree with people who gave it a "meh" rating. Tom just isn't very interesting and let's face it, he's had plenty of opportunity to grow and shine! I thought the women were under-written and the poor daughter was almost a footnote. I kept thinking we were going to receive some pearl of wisdom as we got closer to the end, but it didn't materialise. It struck me a firm editor would have made this a better book, but I wonder if Matt Haig is just too big now (in the UK at least) so this offering felt like a first draft which could have been much more meaningful, moving and memorable.


message 30: by Paula (new)

Paula Mcmichael I felt like the author came up with this cool idea that he felt committed to (man lives for hundreds of years! And then what happens?) but then he didn’t now what to do with the character. What’s his motivation? Um, he’ll be looking for his daughter! But we never see any interaction with Marion, so it’s hard to feel invested in his search. Also, he doesn’t seem to be doing anything to find her except trusting H. and asking random people (out of the billions on the planet) if they know a Marion. There is some interesting writing in this book, but I agree with all the “meh” reviews - you’d think someone who’d lived so long would at least be a little bit interesting to read about!


message 31: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
I think this is the most agreed upon we have been on any book. Interesting. Also interesting what Suzanne said about Haig maybe being too famous to get a meaningful edit. Haig definitely is not that famous in the US, but I guess he is more in the UK. It's not a popular opinion, but I feel the same about Stephen King for anything written in the last 20 years -- there is a very good book there underneath the meandering and a good editor would find that book but no one will edit him because he is Stephen King.


message 32: by Amy (new)

Amy (xj2608) Bonnie wrote: "I think this is the most agreed upon we have been on any book. Interesting. Also interesting what Suzanne said about Haig maybe being too famous to get a meaningful edit. Haig definitely is not tha..."

Ha! Was just reading The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz and was thinking the same thing - could've used an editor to a) make subplot c connect to overall plot, b) tighten up those overly detailed descriptions of nothing, and c) tell the author that he seems to have skipped some important details, leaving things that don't quite make sense. But, I guess at this point, they just let him go on and do what he wants.


message 33: by H.J. (new)

H.J. Moat (hjmoat) | 21 comments Bonnie wrote: "I think this is the most agreed upon we have been on any book. Interesting. Also interesting what Suzanne said about Haig maybe being too famous to get a meaningful edit. Haig definitely is not tha..."
Bonnie this is what I was talking about re: later seasons of Downton Abbey... amazing writers need amazing editors if they want to carry on being amazing!


message 34: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1287 comments Mod
H.J. that is exactly what we were talking about. Someone has to tell the emperor he has no clothes or we all have to watch him walk around with his willie hanging out.

Amy, Koontz us a perfect example. He is a brand. His readers buy everything he publishes, and in hardcover no less. He sneezes on the page and the publisher starts generating press releases.


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