How To Stop Time by Matt Haig (book review)

July 6, 2017 | By | Reply More

Who wants to live forever?’ was rather poignantly sung by Freddie Mercury and I can’t listen to it without a tear in my eye. But what if you had no choice? What if you didn’t choose a long life that verged on immortality, it chose you?

Our main character, Tom Hazard is born in 16th century France and, all appears to be normal, until he reaches puberty and appears to stop aging. He is noticed by the village and his mother is deemed to be guilty of witchcraft. He learns at an early age that he needs to hide. Much like vampires, who never age at all, Tom finds he can never stay anywhere for long. His life will be long but it will never be happy. Such is his curse and his gift. For he can never fall in love and have a normal life. Of course, being human he will try to have all this. This story of an outsider who longs to fit in, who understands what it is to love and be loved. He will know loss and grief and in all that he is human just like the rest of us.

I’ve had this book for a while and tried to understand about how an immortal might feel losing everyone he loves. I think no different to the rest of us as I contemplate a year where friends have lost husbands, beloved relatives have died of diseases we have yet to cure.

Above all, the story is an optimistic one. It is about never letting go of humanity in the face of monsters who belief you to be the monster. It is about learning to love the difference in people and facing down grief.

Alongside all this, it is simply the story of a man who tale ranges across centuries. It has drama, humour and is always entertaining. It is certainly different from many time travel books as it can only travel forwards but, because Tom’s memories are across all his life, there is sense of being saturated with time. He is truly living in the moment, it’s just that he will have so many more moments than the average human. Because he is subject to aging, however slow, is aware that he will spend many more years as a very old man something to consider if you ever think that extending your life span is a good thing. It’s a deeply thoughtful and intriguing book and worth re-reading.

Sue Davies

July 2017

(Canongate Books. 336 page hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78211-861-9)

check out website: https://canongate.co.uk/

Category: Books, Scifi

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