A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live
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. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
I read and loved Midnight Library, and while I didn’t love this one quite as much, many of the qualities I loved from Midnight Library are present here as well.
One thing that Matt Haig does so well is write about the nuance of the human experience. I love the way his mind works to come up with creative ways to explore everything about what it means to be humans, specifically in this novel, the way we let our emotions control us. He takes the time in his novels to really dig into his characters and figure out what makes them tick.
This novel is somewhat predictable, but that’s beside the point. The point is watching things get there, witnessing this 400+ year old man stop running scared and begin to live. I think that the way the author deliberately chose the ancient ages of Tom and the other Albas, especially Hendrich, made their fear more starkly contrasted by comparison to us mere mayflies. If they can live so long and still not get the point of life, then it makes it okay for us to admit we don’t have it figured out either. And the way that Tom begins to unfold the truths of life helps us realize those things as well, accepting them in our own lives.
Secondary to the amazing psychological study that is this book is the history! I just loved the way things played out and we got to see snippets of historical figures and events throughout the story as well. This made my history-lover’s heart so happy. And I just loved that even though he could be anything he wanted, really, Tom chose to become a history teacher at a secondary school.
The audio narration was pretty good. The narrator had a similar sound to what you might expect from a history professor at Oxford. I found that very fitting given the whole teacher thing.
While I really enjoyed the book and feel a void after finishing the audiobook, like I’ve lost a friend, the only thing stopping me from giving it a full 4 stars is that I did feel like it dragged a bit in spots, making it seem to take longer than necessary to reach Tom’s point of realization. But still, it was a wonderful book.
If you like Fredrik Backman and are a fan of history, I think you’ll enjoy this one.
Until next time,
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