When I bought How to Stop Time (2017) I really wasn’t sure I’d like it. Fifty pages in and I still wasn’t sure. Writing this now, I just don’t know!
You see, I knew nothing about the book until I handed over the cash to get it. All I knew was that Matt Haig wrote it; and that was good enough for me. I loved Reasons to Stay Alive (2015). But HTST isn’t a memoir, it’s fiction – gasp.
The story centres on the unusual life of Tom Hazard, a 41-year-old history teacher in London. He keeps himself to himself. He’s guarded. Quite rightly so as he’s got a big secret: he’s not 41, he’s actually 436 years old. It’s not a spoiler to say it; he ages much slower than the average mayfly, aka human. With a life so long, having lived through the talking points of history, he must have stories to tell…
His story, though, is of loneliness and longing for things long gone – something I wasn’t expecting when I started to read. The story moves through time, starting in the late 1500s and flitting to present day London and back again through the ages. Once I passed the first 50-odd pages things picked up (I think I was having RTSA-expectation/withdrawal) and I just couldn’t put it down. I really got into it when Shakespeare cropped up…
However, I’ll be honest: I didn’t love this book and I hate that. It’s to do with having read RTSA; I could hear Matt Haig’s voice throughout, which made it hard to separate author and protagonist. This messed up the story for me. When Hazard philosophises about the meaning, value and use of Time, to me it reads like Haig in RTSA writing about how depression manipulates time.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what I feel when I think about this book. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes. Did I have trouble putting it down at night? Yes. Did I go to sleep later than usual to get those few extra pages in before I really had to go to sleep? Yes.
Am I satisfied with the ending? No. It was too neat and tidy, and the events leading up to it were a little too obvious for my liking. The book is also longer than it needs to be. Am I looking forward to the film? Kinda. Sadly, I find myself hoping Hollywood does what it does when books are made into movies… I hope it changes a few details.
Anyway, in keeping with my read-a-book-pass-it-on philosophy, I’m giving this book to Chloe. Maybe she’ll enjoy it more. My next read: F Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise.