How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig. Book report #1 (2023)

How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig. Pub 2018

I’ve had a few Matt Haig books in mind over the past year, mostly because his The Comfort Book is always prominently displayed at the bookstore, and his The Midnight Library has been popular in best-books lists the past few years. A few months ago, when depositing some books in the local little free library, I saw this one recently deposited so scooped it up.

Tom Hazard is a man with a secret – he doesn’t age at the same rate as everyone else. Like those granted the gift of immortality, he learns quickly that this gift is more curse as he is tormented by his community and has to watch those he loves grow old and die while he remains young. After more than 400 years of life, he’s barely reached middle age. He becomes associated with an underground society of fellow “albatrosses” (as they call themselves) and through this gains a measure of safety and comfort, but at a price. The society becomes both a safety net and a shackle, with a cult-like approach to loyalty and the demonstration of it.

His life objective is to find his daughter, Marion, who he lost touch with in the early 1600s and who shares his quasi-immortality. Along the way, he crosses paths (albeit briefly or tangentially) with some famous people, including William Shakespeare, James Cook, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. These brushes with famous people are somewhat credible but give the story a needless Forrest Gump quality.

This was twist on the immortal trope, even acknowledging itself that it sounds like a pulp fiction vampire story, with the novel feature of aging just being slowed rather than stopped altogether. Throughout there is exploration of popular superstition as science or religion, the impact of time on love, and the shrinking of the world through technology. Tom remembers when the New World was still relatively unknown, when to travel around the world required years rather than hours, and when messages and information required great effort to transmit and much less effort to conceal or erase.

While good and enjoyable, this is very much light fiction – entertaining, engaging, and fun. Not a bad way to cleanse the reading palate for something more substantial.

Fate: I won’t read this again, and since this is a readily available book in most stores and airports, I won’t bother sharing it with a friend, but will return it to its little library home to find another reader.

1 – a book with a murder in it
9 – a book being made into a film (Benedict Cumberbatch will make a very good Tom)
25 – a new author to me

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