How to Stop Time: A Novel

How to Stop Time: A Novel

by Matt Haig


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“A quirky romcom dusted with philosophical observations….A delightfully witty…poignant novel.” —The Washington Post
“She smiled a soft, troubled smile and I felt the whole world slipping away, and I wanted to slip with it, to go wherever she was going… I had existed whole years without her, but that was all it had been. An existence. A book with no words.”

Tom Hazard has just moved back to London, his old home, to settle down and become a high school history teacher. And on his first day at school, he meets a captivating French teacher at his school who seems fascinated by him. But Tom 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.

Unfortunately for Tom, 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 tells 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. It 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.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525522898
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/11/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 47,426
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Matt Haig is the author of the internationally bestselling memoir Reasons to Stay Alive, along with five novels, including The Humans and The Radleys, and several award-winning children's books. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

Read an Excerpt

Life Among the Mayflies
I am old.

That is the main 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.

I am old – old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old.

To give you an idea: I was born well over four hundred  years ago on the third of March 1581, in my parents’ room, on the third floor of a small French château that used to be my home. It was a warm day, apparently, for the time of year, and my mother had asked her nurse to open all the windows.

‘God smiled on you,’ my mother said. Though I think she might have added that – should He exist – the smile had been a frown ever since.

My mother died a very long time ago. I, on the other hand, did not.

You see, I have a condition.

I thought of it as an illness for quite a while, but illness isn’t really the right word. Illness suggests sickness, and wasting away. Better to say I have a condition. A rare one, but not unique. One that no one knows about until they have it.

It is not in any official medical journals. Nor does it go by an official name. The first respected doctor to give it one, back in the1890s, called it ‘anageria’ with a soft ‘g’, but, for reasons that will become clear, that never became public knowledge. The condition develops around puberty. What happens after that is, well, not much. Initially the ‘sufferer’ of the condition won’t notice they have it. After all, every day people wake up and see the same face they saw in the mirror yesterday. Day by day, week by week, even month by month, people don’t change in very percep- tible ways.

But as time goes by, at birthdays or other annual markers, people begin to notice you aren’t getting any older.

The truth is, though, that the individual hasn’t stopped ageing. They age exactly the same way. Just much slower. The speed of ageing among those with anageria fluctuates a little, but generally it is a 1:15 ratio. Sometimes it is a year every thirteen or fourteen years but with me it is closer to fifteen.

So, we are not immortal. Our minds and bodies aren’t in stasis. It’s just that, according to the latest, ever-changing science, various aspects of our ageing process – the molecular degeneration, the cross-linking between cells in a tissue, the cellular and molecular mutations  (including, most significantly, to the nuclear DNA) – happen on another timeframe.

My hair will go grey. I may go bald. Osteoarthritis and hearing loss are probable. My eyes are just as likely to suffer with age-related presbyopia. I will eventually lose muscle mass and mobility.

A quirk of anageria is that it does tend to give you a heightened immune system, protecting you from many (not all) viral and bacte- rial infections, but ultimately even this begins to fade. Not to bore you with the science, but it seems our bone marrow produces more hematopoietic stem cells – the ones that lead to white blood cells – during our peak years, though it is important  to note that this doesn’t protect us from injury or malnutrition, and it doesn’t last.

So, don’t think of me as a sexy vampire, stuck for ever at peak virility. Though I have to say it can feel like you are stuck for ever when, according to your appearance, only a decade passes between the death of Napoleon and the first man on the moon.

One of the reasons people don’t know about us is that most people aren’t prepared to believe it.

Human beings, as a rule, simply don’t accept things that don’t fit their worldview. So you could say ‘I am four hundred and thirty- nine years old’ easily enough, but the response would generally be ‘are you mad?’. ‘Or, alternatively, death.’

Another reason people don’t know about us is that we’re protected. By a kind of organisation. Anyone who does discover our secret, and believes it, tends to find their short lives are cut even shorter. So the danger isn’t just from ordinary humans.

It’s also from within.
Sri Lanka, three weeks ago
Chandrika  Seneviratne was lying under  a tree, in the shade, a hundred  metres or so behind the temple. Ants crawled over her wrinkled face. Her eyes were closed. I heard a rustling in the leaves above and looked up to see a monkey staring down at me with judging eyes.

I had asked the tuk-tuk driver to take me monkey spotting at the temple. He’d told me this red-brown type with the near bald face was a rilewa monkey.

‘Very endangered,’ the driver had said. ‘There aren’t many left. This is their place.’

The monkey darted away. Disappeared among leaves.

I felt the woman’s hand. It was cold. I imagined she had been lying here, unfound, for about a day. I kept hold of her hand and found myself weeping. The emotions were hard to pin down. A rising wave of regret, relief, sorrow and fear. I was sad that Chandrika  wasn’t here to answer my questions. But I was also relieved I didn’t have to kill her. I knew she’d have had to die.
This relief became something else. It might have been the stress or the sun or it might have been the egg hoppas I’d had for break- fast, but I was now vomiting. It was in that moment that it became clear to me. I can’t do this any more.

There was no phone reception at the temple, so I waited till I was back in my hotel room in the old fort town of Galle tucked inside my mosquito net sticky with heat, staring up at the pointlessly slow ceiling fan, before I phoned Hendrich.

‘You did what you were supposed to do?’ he said.

‘Yes,’  I said, which was halfway to being true. After all, the outcome had been the one he’d asked for. ‘She is dead.’ Then I asked what I always asked. ‘Have you found her?’

‘No,’ he said, as always. ‘We haven’t. Not yet.’

Yet. That word could trap you for decades. But this time, I had a new confidence.

‘Now, Hendrich, please. I want an ordinary life. I don’t want to do this.’

He sighed wearily. ‘I need to see you. It’s been too long.’
Los Angeles, two weeks ago
Hendrich was back in Los Angeles. He hadn’t lived there since the 1920s so he assumed it was pretty safe to do so and that no one was alive who would remember him from before. He had a large house in Brentwood that served as the headquarters for the Albatross Society. Brentwood was perfect for him. A geranium-scented land of large houses tucked behind high fences and walls and hedges, where the streets were free from pedestrians and everything, even the trees, looked perfect to the point of sterile.

I was quite shocked, on seeing Hendrich, sitting beside his large pool on a sun-lounger, laptop on knee. Normally, Hendrich looked pretty much the same, but I couldn’t help notice the change. He looked younger. Still old and arthritic, but, well, better than he’d done in a century.

‘Hi, Hendrich,’ I said, ‘you look good.’

He nodded, as if this wasn’t new information.  ‘Botox. And a brow lift.’

He wasn’t even joking. In this life he was a former plastic surgeon. The back story was that after retiring he had moved from Miami to Los Angeles. That way he could avoid the issue of not having any former  local clients. His name  here was Harry  Silverman. (‘Silverman. Don’t you like it? It sounds like an ageing superhero. Which I kind of am.’)

I sat on the spare lounger. His maid, Rosella, came over with two sunset-coloured smoothies. I noticed his hands. They looked old. Liver spots and baggy skin and indigo veins. Faces could lie easier than hands could.

‘Sea buckthorn. It’s crazy. It tastes like shit. Try it.’

The amazing thing about Hendrich was that he kept thoroughly of the times. He always had done, I think. He certainly had been since the 1890s. Centuries ago, selling tulips, he’d probably been the same. It was strange. He was older than any of us but he was always very much in the current of whatever zeitgeist was flowing around.

‘The thing is,’ he said, ‘in California, the only way to look like you are getting older is to look like you are getting younger. If you can move your forehead over the age of forty then people become very suspicious.’

He told me that he had been in Santa Barbara for a couple of years but he got a bit bored. ‘Santa Barbara is pleasant. It’s heaven, with a bit more traffic. But nothing ever happens in heaven. I had a place up in the hills. Drank the local wine every night. But I was going mad. I kept getting these panic attacks. I have lived for over seven centuries and never had a single panic attack. I’ve witnessed wars and revolutions. Fine. But I get to Santa Barbara and there I was waking up in my comfortable villa with my heart going crazy and feeling like I was trapped inside myself. Los Angeles, though, is something else. Los Angeles calmed me right down, I can tell you . . .’

‘Feeling calm. That must be nice.’

He studied me for a while, as if I was an artwork with a hidden meaning. ‘What’s the matter, Tom? Have you been missing me?’

‘Something like that.’

‘What is it? Was Iceland that bad?’

I’d been living in Iceland for eight years before my brief assign- ment in Sri Lanka.

‘It was lonely.’

‘But I thought you wanted lonely, after your time in Toronto. You said the real loneliness was being surrounded by people. And, besides, that’s what we are, Tom. We’re loners.’

I inhaled, as if the next sentence was something to swim under.

‘I don’t want to be that any more. I want out.’

There was no grand reaction. He didn’t bat an eye. I looked at his gnarled hands and swollen knuckles. ‘There is no out, Tom. You know that. You are an albatross. You are not a mayfly. You are an albatross.’

The idea behind the names was simple: albatrosses, back in the day, were thought to be very long-living creatures. Reality is, they only live to about sixty or so; far less than, say, the Greenland sharks that live to four hundred, or the quahog clam scientists called ‘Ming’ because it was born at the time of the Ming dynasty, over five hundred years ago. But anyway, we were albatrosses. Or albas, for short. And every other human on earth was dismissed as a mayfly. So called, because of the short-lived aquatic insects who go through an entire life cycle in a day or – in the case of one sub-species – five minutes.

Hendrich never talked of other, ordinary human beings as anything other  than  mayflies. I was finding his terminology – terminology I had ingrained into me – increasingly ridiculous.
Albatrosses. Mayflies. The silliness of it.

For all his age and intelligence, Hendrich  was fundamentally immature. He was a child. An incredibly ancient child.

That was the depressing thing about knowing other albas. You realised that we weren’t special. We weren’t superheroes. We were just old. And that, in cases such as Hendrich, it didn’t really matter how many years or decades or centuries had passed, because you were always living within the parameters of your personality. No expanse of time or place could change that. You could never escape yourself.

‘I find it disrespectful, to be honest with you,’ he told me. ‘After all I’ve done for you.’

‘I appreciate what you’ve done for me . . .’ I hesitated. What exactly had he done for me? The thing he had promised to do hadn’t happened.

‘Do you realise what the modern world is like, Tom? It’s not like the old days. You can’t just move address and add your name to the parish register. Do you know how much I have had to pay to keep you and the other members safe?’

‘Well then, I could save you some money.’

‘I was always very clear: this is a one-way street—’

‘A one-way street I never asked to be sent down.’

He sucked on his straw, winced at the taste of his smoothie.

‘Which is life itself, isn’t it? Listen, kid—’

‘I’m hardly that.’

‘You made a choice. It was your choice to see Dr Hutchinson—’

‘And I would never have made that choice if I’d have known what would happen to him.’
He made circles with the straw, then placed the glass on the small table beside him in order to take a glucosamine supplement for his arthritis.

‘Then I would have to have you killed.’ He laughed that croak of his, to imply it was a joke. But it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t. ‘I’ll make a deal, a compromise. I will give you the exact life you want – any life at all – but every eight years, as usual, you’ll get a call and, before you choose your next identity, I’ll ask you to do something.’

I had heard all this before, of course. Although ‘any life you want’ never really meant  that. He would give me a handful of suggestions and I’d pick one of them. And my response, too, was more than familiar to his ears.

‘Is there any news of her?’ It was a question  I had asked a hundred  times before, but it had never sounded as pathetic, as hopeless, as it did now.

He looked at his drink. ‘No.’

I noticed he said it a little quicker than  he normally would.

‘No. No, I haven’t. But, listen, we are finding new people at an incredible rate. Over seventy last year. Can you remember when we started? A good year was five. If you still want to find her you’d be mad to want out now.’

I heard a small splashing sound  from the swimming pool. I stood up, went to the edge of the pool, and saw a small mouse, hopelessly swimming along past a water filter. I knelt down and scooped the creature out. It scuttled away towards the perfectly manicured grass.

He had me, and he knew it. There was no way out alive. And even if there was, it was easier to stay. There was a comfort to it – like insurance.

‘Any life I want?’

‘Any life you want.’

I am pretty sure, Hendrich being Hendrich, he was assuming that I was going to demand something extravagant and expensive. That I would want to live in a yacht off the Amalfi Coast, or in a penthouse in Dubai. But I had been thinking about this, and I knew what to say. ‘I want to go back to London.’

‘London? She probably isn’t there, you know.’

‘I know. I just want to be back there. To feel like I’m home again. And I want to be a teacher. A history teacher.’

He laughed. ‘A history teacher. What, like in a high school?’

‘They say “secondary school” in England. But, yes, a history teacher in a high school. I think that would be a good thing to do.’

And Hendrich smiled and looked at me with mild confusion, as if I had ordered the chicken instead of the lobster. ‘That’s perfect. Yes. Well, we’ll just need to get a few things in place and . . .’

And as Hendrich kept talking I watched the mouse disappear under the hedge, and into dark shadows, into freedom.

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How to Stop Time 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has one main character who brings his life through pages of history. Woven delicately with other characters to bring depth to the book as a whole. Has a few low points of sadness but it just makes the ending so much more uplifting. Wonderfully written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book reminded me of the importance of living in the now. I see the folly of trying to adjust the future. It doesn't work for Haig's character and it won't work for us either. This book is a very thoughtful piece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Even though the book jumps back and forth through four or five centuries it is also oddly linear. I may suggest this to my book club because sometimes they require happy endings
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“…now I often want to climb back into that time before. Before I knew Rose, before I knew what would happen to my mother, before, before, before… To cling to who I was, right at the beginning when I was just a small boy with a long name who responded to time and grew older like everybody else. But there is never a way back into the before. All you can do with the past is carry it around, feeling its weight slowly increase, praying it never crushes you completely.” How To Stop Time is the sixth adult novel by British author, Matt Haig. Progeria is a condition in which the sufferer ages much faster than normal. Tom Hazard has the opposite: anageria. He ages much more slowly than the rest of us. It's 2020, he's just taken a job as a history teacher in a London high school, and he looks about forty-one. He's actually 439, so he has experienced some of the stuff he's teaching, first hand. Living so long perhaps sounds like it could be advantageous, but even in the twenty-first century, when witch finders are no longer a threat, failure to develop wrinkles and other signs of ageing attracts notice, and not all of that is benign. This necessitates a nomadic lifestyle, moving on before close ties can form and questions begin to be asked. Falling in love is definitely not a good idea. “For years now I had convinced myself that the sadness of the memories weighed more and lasted longer than the moments of happiness themselves. So I had, through some crude emotional mathematics, decided it was better not to seek out love or companionship or even friendship. To be a little island in the alba archipelago, detached from humanity’s continent, instead.” The premise is certainly original and intriguing, and fans of Claire North’s work may notice some plot similarities (high praise). The narrative races around in time and place, but each time and location is clearly stated so this does not lead to confusion, but does allow Haig to give the reader a taste of Elizabethan London, the Roaring Twenties in Los Angeles and Paris, and late 19th Century England, as well as London and Byron Bay in the near future. Tom has brushes with fame, and there are a few star cameos (Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald). Surfing, a variety of musical instruments, the Plague, and 18th Century Pacific explorers all feature. Tom’s take on the history of “fake news” is particularly interesting. Captivating and moving, this is a marvellous read!
gaele More than 1 year ago
"The first rule is that you don't fall in love, ' he said... 'There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'" And we are off! For consistency’s sake, we’ll call the protagonist of this story Tom Hazard: a man with a rare condition in which he ages far slower (almost 15 years in real time for a year for him) than the norm. As an anagerian, he’s answerable (and in many ways controlled) by the organization that helps to relocate, rename and keep tabs on each member. Over the many years he’s been alive after being born to a wealthy family in France in 1531, he’s had many names, with many different careers, and seen many things. But, he’s broken the rules (to some extent) nearly every incarnation, and we’ve reached him at the point of his very long life that he wants out. Off the treadmill of reinvention, hoping to connect with his daughter, and just being generally fed up with what he sees as the pointlessness of everything. Haig grabs readers by the ears, demanding that they understand this odd condition, the ages Tom has lived through, and his reasons for now wanting out of it all…soon, however, the heart is involved as it is easy to feel Tom’s deep-seated lonliness, his sorrow in memories of time past, and his inability to be surprised by anything anymore. He’s depressed and lonely, both understandable, and is frustrated by The Albatross Society and its leader, and their ability to both manipulate and control the lives of anagerians, and the knowledge that stepping out of line will also lead to death. Sure, he may be tired of hanging about, but to die before he finds his daughter, and to leave behind the memories of those he loved (loves still, actually) aren’t viable options either. What a clever premise full of the longing for love and romance and something ‘solid’ that Tom can cling to even as he is struggling with the futility of it all. Memories strike moments in history: his times during the Plague, working at the Globe Theatre with Shakespeare, and the offhanded comment that the image so known as the man himself is nothing like him. The rise and fall of different powers, technological advances and the “safe, Not Safe, Safe” changes in opinions that happen over the years. Threatened with Bedlam, fearful of retribution, lost in his own memories and adopting a dog that is as much of a misfit as he sees himself to be are just moments that stand out as highlights of storytelling and writing. Haig’s use of words to describe moments, his facility with the creation of voice that carries with it the isolation and tiredness that wrap Tom in a cloak of separateness all work to make this a memorable character and story, leaving questions about one’s own life, the questions about the ability to ‘do over’ and if there really is any point of a life without love. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
GrammyLibrarian12 More than 1 year ago
Solid classical eternal life plot with interesting historical elements and a conclusion that incorporates modern concerns.
JMTJTC More than 1 year ago
“That's the thing with time, isn't it? It's not all the same. Some days - some years - some decades - are empty. There is nothing to them. It's just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.” Genre: Low Fantasy/Historical Fiction. Number of Pages: 325. Perspective: First. Location: London. Tom is part of a rare group of people that age much slower than normal. The trick to staying safe when you are over 400 years old is to change your identity every eight years and never form attachments to other people. Eh, this one fell flat for me. For someone who felt absolute loneliness, I didn’t feel a lot of emotions. Even at the end when he had what should have been an emotional reconnection with someone, I didn’t feel any emotion from either character. There was a lot of filtering that distanced me from the emotions. There was also a lot of telling rather than showing (i.e. "I felt..." or "It made me lonely..."). I will say that this book was a lot more metaphysical than I thought it would be. A lot of introspection about time and the meaning of life. Based on the cover, I thought it would be more like the movie About Time (which I loved). Not even close. I had a hard time believing that he met so many famous people. I mean, one would have been believable, but he was living a pretty isolated lifestyle, so it doesn’t make sense that he would have so many celebrity run-ins, even over such a long period of time. I also find it hard to believe that in over 400 years, he didn’t have sex. I can understand not wanting to fall in love, but, c’mon… Read more at Judging More Than Just The Cover:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book, but really wish authors could resist trying to share their personal politics via their characters, it’s distracting and unfortunate. You have your views, congratulations you are unique, just like everyone else... Kind of the “shut up and sing” sentiment, but just wanted to mention that part, though this kind of political “channeling” seems to sadly become the norm.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the time travel and historical events that were tied in to Tom's storyline. It was written in such a way to make it all seem so possible and real. And it still had a great emotional story to carry the book.
Piney10 More than 1 year ago
This book had a wonderful concept for a novel: a person who had a unique genetic condition that enabled him to live for many centuries—aging very slowly. It started out really interesting as the protagonist, Tom Hazard, was born in the 1500s to a mother with the same condition, however, she was denounced as a witch and killed. There were other people similar to Tom who we meet in the novel, apparently part of a close secret society to keep their condition secret, from denunciations of witchcraft and other reasons through the years. They had to change identities every 7 years to keep them secret and move to different places, Tom had a daughter and was always searching for her through the centuries. However, it got very slow very quickly and contrite. Amazingly, Tom got to know Shakespeare, Captain Cook, and F. Scott Fitzgerald through his years. Ultimately it turned into a thriller type plot. The initial premise was good but in my view failed in this attempt.
Piney10 More than 1 year ago
This book had a wonderful concept for a novel: a person who had a unique genetic condition that enabled him to live for many centuries—aging very slowly. It started out really interesting as the protagonist, Tom Hazard, was born in the 1500s to a mother with the same condition, however, she was denounced as a witch and killed. There were other people similar to Tom who we meet in the novel, apparently part of a close secret society to keep their condition secret, from denunciations of witchcraft and other reasons through the years. They had to change identities every 7 years to keep them secret and move to different places, Tom had a daughter and was always searching for her through the centuries. However, it got very slow very quickly and contrite. Amazingly, Tom got to know Shakespeare, Captain Cook, and F. Scott Fitzgerald through his years. Ultimately it turned into a thriller type plot. The initial premise was good but in my view failed in this attempt.
litpixie More than 1 year ago
I've been reading a few books about eternal life, or what seems like an eternal life. This was an interesting take on that plot. Haig's writing is beautiful. After reading How to Stop Time I now want to read everything he's written. This book really touched me unlike so many other books this year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
History, time travel, and a great story..what's not to love??
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great plot but i was very disapointed with the melo dramtic ending. A little excitement followed by pages and pages of boring life philosophy.... i ended up skipping pages. Such a neat idea for a story... bummed with all the boring love drama and thoughrs on life.....wish the author would have just stuck to the great story line....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made me wonder with some Extra Made me wonder if there really are "alba's" in our world & would that be so bad!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining and loved the messages at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this unusual story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Time stands still and runs quickly.
RRatliff More than 1 year ago
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Tom Hazard's story spans decades - centuries even. He lives his life in fear. Fear of being discovered. Fear of being alone. Fear of becoming too attached to anyone or anywhere. Fear of The Society. Tom is an Alba. A member of The Society of Albatrosses, Albas for short, so named for their unusually long life span. Albas are people who live for centuries. Aging in the same ways as those around them, but at a infinitely slower pace. The Society organizes Albas, arranges for their relocation on eight year rotations, asking only for "small favors" in between. Unfortunately failure to join up isn't really an option, neither is quitting. But Tom is done. This is the story of Tom's quest to come to terms with his past, and decide what his own future will be. True to fashion, it certainly has Matt Haig's quirky humor. The story is told in alternating segments of the present, and Tom's past, which has been filled with historical celebrities along the way. I especially enjoyed the fact that he knew Shakespeare personally, and the idea that he played piano in a speakeasy. I was curious if this might potentially be a series, but I believe it is a stand-alone, and I was very happy with the way things wrapped up.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig Etienne Thomas Ambroise Christophe Hazzard (Tom Hazzard) was born on March 3, 1581. He's 439 y/o but looks 41. After wondering the world for a long time he settles in London, teaching history to 9th graders in a low-income high school. Tom suffered the loss of his mother by a witch hunter in the sixteenth century and had to give up life with his wife and daughter for fear of endangering his life. As it turns out, his daughter Marion inherited his condition and he's been trying to find her over the years. He was recruited by The Albatross Society in 1891 by Hendrich Pietersen. The Albatross Society is set up to protect the Albatross, people like Tom, people who suffer from anageria -- a process of very slow aging, typically one year for every 15 years lived -- from the mayflies -- people with normal aging process. Tom has been sent to retrieve other albatross people who, if found out, could expose all the people like him. The rules are simple, don't fall in love and move every eight years or so, and assume a new identity. If you don't comply, you get eliminated. You disappear. "The longer you live, the more you realize that nothing is fixed. Everyone will become a refugee if they live long enough." p. 46. "That was the familiar lesson of time. Everything changes and nothing changes." p. 103 Narrated from the first person point of view, we are introduced to the stories of famous people. Tom met Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Captain Cook, and many others, and their encounters were real -- like being there. Haig focuses on relationships and their importance in people’s lives. He also observes that humans are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past, a sentiment that addresses what the United States is experiencing right now. I loved the book and was amused by the prose written in British English. I liked it so much, I'm inclined to get The Humans...
Jaruwa More than 1 year ago
I liked The Humans by Matt Haig, so I looked forward to reading this. The premise looked intriguing. Tom Hazard, born in the 16th century, has an astonishing attribute: he does not seem to age. In actuality, he does age, but very slowly, aging only one year every 15 years, so he is in his early 40s by the time he reaches the 21st century. This “what if” story asks what life would really be like for someone in this situation. Haig tells an entertaining story while picturing some of the darker sides of living a very long life. Reactions to someone who is different, especially in an unexplained way, are often cruel, and such experiences throughout many centuries of life have wounded him badly. Not only that, but his secret endangers those he cares about as well. Having to move every eight years, before it becomes evident to others that he is “different”, leads to a severe lack of human connection. A secret society made up of people like him have two rules: they must never fall in love or reveal the secret of their long life. He did love deeply in his early years, but that resulted in disaster for a loved one, and separation from his wife and daughter, so later in life he tries to avoid deep relationships. Haig explores the question of what makes life worth living. It takes Tom Hazard 400 + years to answer that, but by the end he begins to understand and fearlessly takes control of his own life, allowing himself to develop and enjoy meaningful relationships. The ideas presented were intriguing, the characters were well developed, and Haig provided me with some new insights, but I was somewhat disappointed in several things. The jumping back and forth in time and place was confusing. Once I was deeply immersed in one time period, I was suddenly pulled out of it and put into a very different time and place. Imho, it would have been a better book with fewer and longer episodes. I also thought Tom’s coincidental meetings with famous people of his current era was unbelievable, completely unnecessary, and detracted from the story. Finally, I wish Haig had trusted that his readers would be able to grasp his message without being explicit about it. I may seem overly critical, but it’s only because I’m disappointed that this is not a better book. It had so much potential. Haig writes well, and tells a good story, but these problems reduced my enjoyment of it. In spite of these problems, I did enjoy reading this, and I will look forward to reading the next novel from Matt Haig. I hope he writes more about some of the characters in this novel. I especially liked Omai. What a fascinating character! I would like to read an entire book about him and his adventures. Note: I received an advance copy of the ebook from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
2.5 stars raised to 3. I really tried to like this book. I saw so many 4 and 5 star reviews, I just knew it had to be good. Well, 56% of the way to the end, I said "never mind, I just don't get it". I read two other books while reading this one and they were excellent. I'm putting this one back on the shelf. I seriously could not get into this book or care about Tom. Thanks to Penguin Group Viking and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
jmchshannon More than 1 year ago
In Matt Haig‘s wildly original new novel, How to Stop Time, there is a secret society that does not want you to know they exist. They call themselves the Albatross Society because back in the day, albatrosses were thought to have an unusually long lifespan. The members of this secret society age at a fraction of the rate normal humans do, which means they tend to live for hundreds and hundreds of years, but you will never know them. They don’t fall in love; they don’t form close relationships with anyone, and they disappear every eight years to avoid detection. With rules like that, it is no wonder that Tom Hazard is tired. After four hundred years of living a fairly isolated life with no close friends or family, he questions his very existence and hopes that returning to the scenes of his early 20s will help him recall what it is like to live like everyone else. Except, once there, the proximity to his past brings it even closer than he ever thought, blurring the line between past and present, making him question his sanity, and forcing him to reevaluate everything he thought was important to him. We enter Tom’s life at the time he is having a true crisis of faith. He is tired of life and tired of the restraints and obligations set upon him by the Society. He hopes his move to London and his position as a history teacher will bring some much-need focus to his life. We see his exhaustion and learn about his growing apathy towards everything and everyone. Most of all, we see him scoff at us regular humans for our misplaced obsession with technology and things. With a description about a man who has lived for centuries, I was expecting a novel with a bit more adventure and action. Instead, it is almost a character study of humanity at large. It is definitely a character-driven novel in which Tom takes us through his past to the point where he joins the Society and through his present as he struggles with what to do about the endless years still facing him. Through this, we not only learn from his observances about humans over the last four centuries, we also get an intimate look at what life was like during the Elizabethan era. Mr. Haig minces no words during the historic scenes. Nor does he beautify history. He shows what was in all its filthy, unregulated glory. Mud is the least of the issues. People setting up markets on main streets next to animal waste. Drinking beer because it was the one thing guaranteed not to kill you since no one knew if the water was safe. Abject poverty. Crime. Brutality. Bigotry. Sure, this was at the same time Shakespeare was writing and performing his plays, but there was nothing glorious about the era. Because of his unusual genetics, Tom faces the worst of humanity as people always fear what they do not understand, and during that age fear and not understanding went hand-in-hand with cries of witchcraft. Mr. Haig does not present a pretty picture because there was none to be had. What he does do with these scenes, though, is shows us how to find the good within the bad. How to hold close love and comfort and warmth when it is available to you. Tom learns this at an early age because he understands how fleeting it is for him given his condition. Yet it is something we humans tend to repeatedly forget until it is way too late.
NovelKim More than 1 year ago
What if you discovered that you were going to live to be 900 and that you could love everything except for another human being? Would you want that life? Estienne Thomas Ambroise Christophe Hazard known in the current century as Tom Hazard has lived a very long time. He is in the mid-point of his life and struggling with living in the “now”. He is struggling with all the ghosts and the previous nows. He has been many different people and played many roles. He thinks of himself as a “crowd in one body”. He has met and quotes Shakespeare and actually lives one of those quotes –you know the one “All the world’s a stage……And one man in his time plays many parts.” This was an engaging story, with interesting characters and circumstances. This book posed so many meaningful questions that resonated and ultimately requires you to question if you found yourself in the identical situation “How would I Live?” Thank you NetGalley and Viking for an ARC.
Eire2011 More than 1 year ago
I generously received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. This book was one of my most anticipated books for 2018 and I was not disappointed with the hype. It's a story about a man by the name of Tom Hazard who looks to be just under fourtey years old but is in fact four hundred thirty nine years old and was born in France. He is one of several people who age very slowly and has the potential to live to nine hundred. He was born in an era where people were very superstitious and someone being accused of witchcraft was alas a very popular thing especially in smaller towns. This book is an account of the adventures, memories, love, heartache and friendships he has made over the years though it has hardly been an easy time for him and recently has had severe headaches as well as wondering what he should really be doing with his life. He has been under the thumb so to speak of Hendrich, the leader of a group of people known as the Albatross, who pretty much runs things like the mafia since the late 1800's and is also quite the paranoid nine hundred year old man. All Tom really wants is to live a normal life, find his daughter who he's been trying to find for the last four hundred years or so, get rid of the headaches and stop having to move around every eight years due to the fact that he ages so slowly. When he decides to settle in London as a History teacher, he adopts an Akita named Abraham and finds himself drawn to the French teacher Camille though he tries hard to resist because he thinks it's for her own protection. Just when Tom thinks he's close to finding out where his daughter is, Hendrich sends him to Australia for a week in the hopes of convincing an old friend called Omai, whom he met in Tahiti back in the 1700s, of his to get out of the lime light. Reluctant to go but also wanting to see his old friend, Tom soon realizes that not everything is so easily cut and dry. He's just about at the end of what he can deal with but Omai refuses to fall in line just because someone wants to and Tom realizes that there's much more to life than living under the thumb of Hendrich who always seems to have a hidden agenda. Things are about to get even more complicated when Hendrich shows up in Australia, Tom will soon realize what really matters and he just may well get out alive and maybe just maybe find love again. Full of mystery, a travel through time, humor, a touch of heartbreak and the power of true friends, it was such a pleasure to read this book. I'm so glad that I was given the chance to read it early and I couldn't seem to put it down. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy getting a glimpse into the past and quirky characters.