How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Review published on July 1, 2017.

Owing to a rare condition known as Anageria, Tom Hazard ages very slowly indeed. Born over 400 years ago, he still looks around 41 years old. He still ages, just extremely slowly. He has benefited from a very strong immune system, but eventually age-related illness will occur.

Living for such a long time is a dangerous business and so needs to be kept secret. This means travelling the globe, never staying anywhere longer than eight years and changing your identity periodically so that no one could possibly be aware of you. It means also that you cannot love, ‘You cannot lay down the anchor.’ Ultimately, you cannot lead an ordinary life, which is something Tom dearly craves, despite it bringing no guarantee of happiness. And so he returns to London in modern day times to work as a history teacher, having witnessed most things first hand!

Tom reflects upon the use of social media and the arrogance of certainty, the extent of ignorance, welcomed displays of compassion and the evolution of the use of language. Things in his current life send him back to memories in time and he recounts stories and events that resonate with the present. His personal accounts are very engaging and he convincingly describes things in such a way that you do believe he lived in those times. From back when suspicions of witchcraft lead to innocent people’s death, to Shakespearean London, Paris and further, through a colourful life you learn more about the thoroughly interesting Tom and his quest to reunite with his daughter Marion.

Such as the book is described, it is a bittersweet story about finding yourself, the certainty of change and really learning to know how to live with this. Longevity makes life no less confusing. It is stunningly observational and full of short, profound lines that resonate beyond the pages. Easy to read, intriguingly different and with a pleasant after-burn, this is an exceptional piece of absorbing literary fiction, which Benedict Cumberbatch will soon be starring in a film adaptation of.

Sara Garland 5/4

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Canongate Books 9781782118619 hbk Jul 2017


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