This summer, thanks to an awesome, eagle-eyed friend, I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of Matt Haig’s latest novel, How To Stop Time. I’ve been a big Matt Haig fan ever since I read The Humans, which is a novel about an alien who comes to earth and takes over one particular human’s body, and during his time in that body he learns about humans and their peculiar ways just as an outsider would. It’s wonderfully funny and poignant, and that poignancy is something that I hoped to see more of in How To Stop Time. I wasn’t disappointed.
How To Stop Time tells the story of Tom Hazard, a man who has lived many years but ages very slowly, making him look like a sprightly 41-year-old while he has, in fact, lived over ten times that long. Which sounds pretty good to me on the face of it – I will take as long a life as I can get, please and thank you. But of course it comes with its complications, since normal people, or ‘mayflies’, are generally quite taken aback by someone who doesn’t age - and Tom’s kind, or ‘albas’, tend to garner the kind of attention that means someone somewhere wants to experiment on them. So for Tom it’s a good idea to not stay in one place for too long, to change his identity regularly, and to never fall in love. Easier said than done.
So that’s the premise of the book, but the magic is in the narrative, in the observations Haig makes about the human condition. There are so many gems in here about time, love, friendship. Here’s one of my favourites:
Matt Haig expresses feelings in an empathetic way that seems so effortless. Yes, some periods of time do seem so flat, like nothing happens, and then a day or even a minute comes along and it is “everything”, it provides something to cling to, no matter how fleeting it might be. Sometimes I think about nights spent with my family when my brother-in-law would cook a huge spread that would feed many more than the ten of us who were there, and he would give me too much to drink, and he would light a fire in the chiminea, and we would sit around it outside no matter how cold it might be, and all the teenagers would be there and we would laugh, and it would be wonderful. There was a period when that was my Saturday night every other weekend or so, and now that they are few and far between, I look back on those times and think of how full they were and how I will always remember them. And now there are days where every week I have a routine, and I know each of those nights is also quality time spent with family and friends, and I know that later I will look back at those times being so brilliant and valuable, and it makes me appreciate them even more. Those are the “full” times, and they feel like they are everything. And I know I have gone off on a tangent now, but that is where this book takes me. It takes me to important places.
This is a gorgeous book both inside and out. It will make you pause for thought; it will make you want to take a picture of a paragraph and tweet it; it will make you relate – to trying not to get too attached, to feeling different to everyone else, to finding what you’re looking for. Ironically, I would have reviewed this book much earlier, if I’d had the time. I recommend finding some time yourself to read it.
Find How To Stop Time on Amazon.