How To Stop Time

Written by Matt Haig

Review written by Sue Lord


How To Stop Time
Canongate
RRP: £12.99
Released: July 6 2017
HBK

Tom Hazard is much older than he looks, and his name is just one of many.  He was born in France in the Middle-Ages. His mother was killed as a witch in consequence of his existence and this is his story.

Every eight years Tom has to move on and change his identity so that the people around him don’t notice that he is different. Consequently, Tom leads a long and lonely peripatetic life. He has a condition called Anageria the complete opposite to Progeria [the rapid-aging disorder]. 

Eventually, Tom meets a man called Hendrich who also has Progeria, and reveals that there are many people with the same disorder. He assures Tom that he is able to keep him safe and facilitate his moves to wherever he wants to go on the eight-year cycle. It seems all that Tom has to do to get help from Hendrich is to join the Albatross Society.  For this service Hendrich asks for only one thing in return - ‘favours’- whenever he asks for them.

It seems that the society kill anybody who discovers the truth about their existence, or fellow sufferers of Anageria who are foolish enough not to protect their secret. Tom also discovers that there are also a great number of rules and conditions to follow, with the most important one being - to never fall in love.

Tom however did fall in love; he married and had a daughter; but had to leave his family in order to protect them. His daughter Marion has inherited Anegeria and Tom spends much of his time trying to find her.

Despite reservations he joins the Albatross Society because they promise to help him find Marian. He has lived in medieval France, through Elizabethan England, Jazz-Age Paris, New York and the South Seas. Tom has mastered many musical instruments, skills and experience, and has eaten fine food and heard wonderful music; he has met fascinating people, but Tom has also experienced great loneliness and all he wants now is an ordinary life.

Thanks to the Albatross society and Hendrich, he gets a job as a history teacher at a comprehensive school in Tower Hamlets. Here Tom finds himself attracted to a French teacher, which is a big mistake.

Is this novel Crime fiction, or Historical, or Romance or Travel or Philosophy? Or does it really matter to have a genre label for this novel - as it is an extremely thought provoking, well-written narrative complete with convincing characters; though the latter sections contain a sense of urgency that perhaps could have been paced more evenly. This observation is a minor quibble when taken into context over this remarkable and unusual novel.

Highly recommended



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