How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Written by Ashley Kelmore, Posted in Reviews
Fans of historical fiction. Those who enjoy a book that spans time.
In a nutshell:
Tom Hazard has been alive since the 1500s. He’s trying to find his daughter while staying below the radar of those who want to know more about his condition.
“The progress of humanity seemed to be measured in the distance we placed between ourselves and nature.”
“That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days — some years — some decades — are empty. There is nothing to them. It’s just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.”
Why I chose it:
I enjoyed his book ‘The Midnight Library.’
What it left me feeling:
Tom Hazard has a condition. It’s a genetic one, where once he hit puberty his aging slowed dramatically. While he was born in the late 1500s, by the 2020s he’s only looking like he’s in his early 40s. This creates problems, as you can imagine – not quite the level of vampire, but still. After a few years (8, according to The Society, which watches over and helps people with Tom’s condition) they need to move on to avoid being caught. In the 1600s-1800s, the danger was death due to claims of witchcraft; by the 1900s the concern is more scientific interest.
Tom had a love once – Rose. And he had — possibly has — a daughter. She inherited his condition, but he hasn’t seen her since the early 1600s. Looking for her is the main thing that keeps him going (people with his condition can die from violent injury, but they aren’t susceptible to things like colds or the plague until much much later in their lives). He also is supported by The Society, and occasionally has to run errands for them, when people like him are discovered, The Society wants to bring them into their fold and keep them from going public. (The head of The Society reminds me a bit of Magneto.)
I enjoy stories like this one, because I think it’s fascinating to consider, not necessarily immortality (though that’s usually what allows for stories like this to be told), but living so long that one witnesses so much of history. We’ve been living through a whole lot of history these past few years, but can you imagine having lived through COVID-19, and the flu pandemic of 1918 … and the plague? Seeing the fires in California in the recent drought years, as well as the 1666 fire in London? How would that affect you? Especially where romantic and family connections are concerned. Unless you found someone with the same condition to love and who loved you, you’d just have to try to go through life not drawing attention to yourself. You could make friends for a few years, but then come up with an excuse to disappear. Not the hardest thing to do in the 1700s, but now? With cameras everywhere? With social media? How would that work?
Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it: