Book Review: How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

I’ll start by saying that it feels like forever since I’ve written anything for this blog, and while forever is a bit of a stretch; I have not been sticking to my regular once a week programming (you know if we actually pretend I ever have). This is to be honest due to my regular scheduled bouts of ennui (which are regular even if nothing in my life is).

However, I’m back, ready to write, review, take awful blog pictures and keep pretending I’ll have the courage to put my face on YouTube one day.

This week’s quality content is a review of How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. I know this is not a new release by any means but I borrowed it to read for a book club at work so thought I’d do a little review about it. The book follows Tom Hazard, who looks about 41 years old but has been alive for centuries. He’s seen it all from Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, to New York to the South Seas. To avoid being caught he is constantly changing his identity to stay alive. We follow Tom as he starts to teach history at a London comprehensive (delightfully of course pulling on his experiences to teach) and is searching for why he still keeps going after all the centuries he’s lived.

You can kind of tell from the premise that the book is going to be a page turner and the prose aids this beautifully – it’s relatable in that way that has often been sometimes caused books to be dismissed as ‘beach reads’; but in fact just gives you breathing room to think. I also ferociously belong to the camp that believe that something doesn’t need to be long-winded to feel like a classic.

How To Stop Time however does not belong to the classic camp (in my humble opinion).  Don’t get me wrong it’s a lovely read and it will force you to enjoy life a little bit more, especially if you’re like me and have a tendency to get trapped in your own head a lot. It also will make you remember why you love history (or get you at least a bit excited about it if it wasn’t your subject at school), as this is definitely written by someone who fiercely loves history. Unsurprisingly, when I looked up Matt Haig I found that he studied English and History at Hull University.

Flaw wise (without trying to give anything away) the novel suffers from the trait I’ve been noticing in a few of my reads recently; the tying up of all plot holes as speedily as possible in the last chapter or so. Maybe, I just don’t like novels to end and maybe I would wrongly draw things out too much. But something about the thoughtful nature of the book makes me want it to be less rushed; after all the book does exude the theme that we have to learn to live in the present.

Some people will probably criticise the amount of famous cameos but really considering the amount of time this character is supposed to have lived; I don’t feel it’s too dramatic. I also feel like the people who are constantly open to new things and wait to see where life takes them are always the ones who find themselves drawn to people like that – like moths to a flame. Also, if you’re going to do any sort of narrative with time travel or travelling through different periods of time; your audience is going to expect the obligatory celebrity cameo.

The treatment of colonialism within the book is also a little bit fleeting and probably could of done with a bit more development than the two pages I saw. Especially, considering the way the novel reflects on casting someone as ‘other’ and witchcraft.

Overall, I did like this novel and would recommend it, especially if you’re a lover of any piece of fiction that looks at different time periods like me. Don’t go in thinking this is all guns blazing however. It is after all a story of an Englishman (well French, but shh –  and there is an argument to be had for that at least a little by the way in which the character sees themselves at being at home within London). If you need a bit of optimism and want a well written tale; you can’t go wrong with this one.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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