There is a poignancy to Matt Haig’s riveting new novel, How To Stop Time, that almost seems to gently seep from the pages and gather, like a fine mist, around you.
I’ll be honest and tell you that, at the moment, I’m quite a lazy reader (see sleep deprivation). I don’t want to work too hard for my entertainment – and reading a book where the story is one thing but you know that it’s clearly about something else, something much bigger, probably wouldn’t be my first choice.
In Matt’s case, though? I’d be willing to do hard labour.
Not that this book feels like a difficult read; the story flows easily and the only thing hard about it is putting it down. His prose is beautiful and honest and while it feels wrong to say I enjoyed it when the story made my heart ache, I was charmed by it.
I can completely understand why the film rights were snapped up so quickly.
Here’s the blurb:
‘I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.’
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. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.
Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.
This is Matt’s first book for adults in four years. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about his writing is that he not only seems to have an innate understanding of humanity but he can translate that to the page, for whatever audience he is writing for, in a way that is so vivid.
The story switches between past and present and, if I didn’t know better, I would think he had experienced those different historical periods in person because he made it so visual (has he just given himself away?)
I’m not going to say too much more because I think its one of those books where people will take different things from it – and I don’t want my experience to influence yours.
I will say that if you’re not already a fan of Matt Haig, you will be after reading How To Stop Time.
My rating: Four stars.
With thanks to Canongate Books (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest review.