The premise was too intriguing not to buy – the narrator is 400 years old! He ages very very very slowly, and he has one rule – he must not fall in love (I’m sure you can imagine how well that goes!). How To Stop Time was on my summer reading list and it was a treat to read (and rumour has it that Benedict Cumberbatch is producing and starring in a film adaptation which is currently in development)!
Haig is a particularly funny writer – his little quips and asides (such as when creating Tom creates his Facebook profile: “there isn’t the option of putting 1581 for your birthdate, anyway”) makes the book very joyful to read. This book has all of the classic
Haig-ness about it, and just like one of his other books The Humans, discusses what it means to be alive. Where The Humans looks at the ridiculousness of life in the 21st Century from the point of view of a lone alien, How To Stop Time looks at life and humanity in regards to time. Both main characters are outsiders – in How To Stop Time Tom Hazard is a world-weary “alba” (albatrosses) living for centuries in a world of mayflies (us normal people).
The book is also a love story – and I do love a good book with a quality love story. The first love and the one that changes everything for our main boy Tom Hazard is his romance with 17th-century fruit-seller Rose. As Tom navigates modern London as a history teacher (he could have chosen anything and Tom chose to be a history teacher!) he refers back to various moments in his life with Rose. I won’t say too much more – don’t want to spoil anything!!
How To Stop Time has romance, history, famous faces (from Shakespeare (who incidentally saves his life) to Captain Cook, and the Fitzgeralds) and even conspiracies and secret societies. The Albatross society founded by Hendrich, a 900-year-old, who sets the rules and claims to protect the other albas from being experimented on (which paints the image of evil mad scientists with crazy hair – at least for me), is at first Tom’s protection until some difficult assignments and a few other things (I can’t tell you – sorry!) make him question the very nature of the society and whether it’s really meant to protect the albas at all.
This book is funny and full of energy and spirit. It was a great read, the chapters were small (which I always appreciate in a book!) and as Hermione Eyre said in The Guardian review, also provides “the most convincing explanation yet for the skills of jazz pianists: they are, of course, 300 years old.”