I often think of what Hendrich said to me, over a century ago, in his New York apartment.
– Opening sentence
How to Stop Time is Matt Haig’s 12th novel, and having previously read The Humans, Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet, I had high expectations.
How to Stop Time is about a man, Tom Hazard, who looks like an ordinary man in his forties. But he has a secret; he is over 400 years old.
I know what you’re thinking, but – no – this is not a vampire story. Hazard is an “alba”, one of only a few who are known to age at a rate of 13 to 14 years slower than an average human. Spanning four centuries, Hazard has lived a varied life, including working for Shakespeare, sailing with Cook and drinking with Fitzgerald.
But Hazard’s extraordinary life is a dangerous hardship. People get suspicious when someone doesn’t appear to age, and this suspicious often manifests into accusations and violence. So Hazard ends up living a life of isolation, changing his location and name every eight years, with the help of Hendrich, founder of The Albatross Society.
This book, like many of Haig’s, explores what it means to be human, and what it means to live a life without meaning. Just because Hazard lives an extraordinary long life, it doesn’t mean he is lives a happy life. He gets headaches – a side effect of the sheer quantity of memories – lives in secret, and risks endangering those he forms relationships with.
I really enjoyed jumping through time with Hazard as he recalled memories from the 1600s through to the1920s alongside the present day. This book is recognisably Haig, which I’m sure other fans will understand; easy to read, effortlessly relatable and emotionally stimulating.
However, I must admit that I didn’t find the ending fully satisfying. While Hazard’s story ends on a happy note, I was thrown by the jarring conclusion of Hendrich’s (don’t worry, no spoilers). The pacing felt rushed compared to the rest of the novel, and I felt like there wasn’t enough character development to justify the actions he made – it really threw me off.
(If anyone else has read this and knows what I’m talking about, I’d love to know your thoughts on this in the comments!)
Despite the rushed ending, I overall found How to Stop Time an enjoyable read, and one that I would like to read again in the future, as I imagine I would get different meanings from this at different times in my own life.
(4 / 5)
It is just a single second, but inside it I feel as though, just staring into Camille’s eyes, I can see forever.
– Final sentence