Wednesday, 2 May 2018

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How many lifetimes does it take to learn how to live?

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41 year old history teacher, but he's been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing his identity he can stay one step ahead of his past - and stay alive.

The only thing he must not do is fall in love.

'I often think of what Hendrich said to me, over a century ago, in his New York apartment. "The first rule is that you don't fall in love," he said. "There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay." I stared through the curving smoke of his cigar, out over Central Park where trees lay uprooted from the hurricane. "I doubt I will ever love again," I said. Hendrich smiled, like the devil he could be. "Good. You are, of course, allowed to love food and music and champagne and rare sunny afternoons in October. You can love the sight of waterfalls and the smell of old books, but the love of people is off limits. Do you hear me? Don't attach yourself to people, and try to feel as little as you possibly can for those you do meet. Because otherwise you will slowly lose your mind..."

This wonderful introduction to this book indicates that this is a romance with a difference. However, it is much more than that and is very difficult to place in a particular genre. Definitely, there is romance, but it is also part fantasy and part science fiction. If, like me, you are not a great fan of science fiction or fantasy, please do not let that put you off reading this very entertaining and accessible book.

The narrative switches between past and present and even though there is no particular order to this it was not difficult to follow. I actually thought that this enhanced the book as it demonstrated how the past affects the present.

The subject of music is significant in this book and demonstrates how its universality can cross the divides of time. This is the one constant throughout the protagonists long life. Indeed, we have all heard music that has the ability to immediately transport us back to a particular time and place and Mr. Haig has used this very effectively in his novel.

This is the first book I have read by Matt Haig and I intend to read more by him. I like the confusion of genres and the challenge that it presents in confining his novel to a particular genre. Novels of this type have a lot to offer and I recommend this one.

ISBN: 978 1782118640

Publisher: Canongate

About the Author:

In his own words: "I am a writer. The stuff I’ve written includes novels, screenplays, children’s novels and journalism. My novels have now been translated in 29 languages.
My first novel, The Last Family in England (2004) was a UK bestseller. It was an honour when one of my favourite writers, Jeanette Winterson, called it ‘among the great animal books.’ It was a Daily Mail Book Club selection, and the film rights have been sold to Brad Pitt’s production company. The very talented New Zealand film-maker Taika Waititi has written a brilliant screenplay and plans to direct the film.
Since that book I’ve written The Dead Fathers Club (2006) and The Possession of Mr Cave (2008), which have been translated into ten languages. The last one is still the darkest thing I’ve ever written, by quite a long way. Again, an excellent screenplay for that has been written by Brock Norman Brock.
The Radleys, won an ALA Alex Award in America, has been shortlisted for the Portico prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and has been translated into 29 languages most recently Lithuania. It won the TV Book Club Summer Read. I have written the screenplay with the help of the (now chopped) UK Film Council, which is being produced into a film by Alfonso Cuaron and BBC Films. It was written as an adult novel, but in addition to the Canongate edition there is a young adult edition available in the UK published by Walker Books.
However, I have written some children’s books. My first, Shadow Forest,won the Nestle/Smarties Prize, the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award (2009) and eight regional awards. Both Shadow Forest and it’s sequel The Runaway Troll are being re-packaged and re-published for release in the UK in 2013. This will coincide with the launch of the paperback edition of my new kids book, To Be a Cat.
I was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire in 1975. Since then I have lived in Nottinghamshire, Ibiza and London. I studied English and History at Hull University and then did an MA at Leeds. I live in Brighton with the writer Andrea Semple and our children Lucas and Pearl. And in 2009, I won the Yorkshire Young Achievers ‘Achievement in the Arts’ Award."
(author information is taken from Matt's website

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