Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Human beings, as a rule, simply don’t accept things that don’t fit into 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?’.


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.

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My Thoughts:

I did not like nor enjoy this book.

I would have stopped listening, but it was the only audiobook downloaded when I was traveling. I was a prisoner to Tom Hazard’s misery, as was Tom to The Albatross Society. A secret organization claiming to keep people like Tom safe and their best interest at heart. I enjoyed the moral grayness of the society.

I understand Tom’s unhappiness. He is stuck aging slowly and has lived with the consequences of such a lifestyle. He has outlived his mother, wife (Rose), and possibly his daughter. The loss of Rose has haunted Tom into his current “life” as a school teacher. Tom starts to have headaches and questions why he cannot have true happiness while a member of the Albatross Society. Which leads Tom to take more risks than he has in the past.

I am slightly critical of Tom’s grief. It has been a few hundred years and he is deeply troubled by the death of his wife. He has had many years to work through these emotions and yet he is still stuck. So much so, he cannot see how The Albatross Society is the biggest barrier between him and the whereabouts of his daughter.

My dislike for How to Stop Time comes not from the characters but from the non-linear style. If the story were told in chronological order I might have been more interested. I am not sure how big of a difference it would have made, but that was definitely the cause of my disconnect from the story.

It was difficult for me to follow the flow when mid event the next chapter was a flashback to past events. Not just any past events, but ones featuring famous people. While dealing with this heavy emotional baggage Tom has met many famous/historical people in his lifetime due to the connection of the Albatross Society. I can believe a lot of things, but Tom rubbing elbows with Shakespeare (and others) broke the enchantment of the novel.

Should you read How to Stop Time?

I do not recommend How to Stop Time. How to Stop Time is not an awful read, but one that was not a good fit for me.

How to Stop Time is in production for a movie, news of this bubbled around 2017.

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