Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Benedict Cumberbatch owns the films rights to this, and it hasn't even been published yet. Are you sold? Due to hype alone I'm expecting How to Stop Time to be HUGE this summer, and thanks to NetGalley and Canongate Books, I'm one of the lucky few to read it before everyone else!

'I am old. That is the first 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.'

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. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.

Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover - working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he'd never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom mustn't do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.


REVIEW
This book wasn't what I was expecting, but then I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting. The narrative flits between Tom's present life as a London schoolteacher and his past, his lifetime of memories working for William Shakespeare, sailing with Captain Cook and drinking with F. Scott Fitzgerald. But Tom has suffered more than his fair share of tragedy and trauma as a result of his condition, and piece by piece and time by time we discover the events, and people who have shaped his life. It almost feels as if this book was written for the big screen - sci fi storyline, famous historical figures, a star-crossed love story, a vindictive villain, need I go on!? - and I'm not surprised at all by how quickly the rights were snapped up. I'm only assuming and hoping that Mr Cumberbatch has himself in mind to play the leading man.

I had visions of Tom's schoolteacher persona straying into 'Carpe Diem' Dead Poet's Society territory - not that that would have been a bad thing - and while the message is similar, it is conveyed in an entirely different fashion. Matt Haig is an incredibly talented writer, and one who understands and taps into the human psyche. The only other book of his that I have read so far is his autobiographical Reasons to Stay Alive detailing his battle with anxiety and depression, and it is a work that still resonates with me. How to Stop Time, although fictional, has a similar effect. It makes you consider your own life and mortality, what you have achieved and want to achieve - what you want, not what society dictates you should want - and how you want to live your life. Science fiction aside, the idea at the heart of this book is the importance of seizing every moment you get, of living your life in the present. Us mere mortals, the 'mayflies', have but a fleeting time on this earth and we should make the most of it. Dwelling in the past or worrying about the future will do us no good in the long run. Enjoy the now, do what you want to do, and be happy doing it. 

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