I first became a fan of Matt Haig after reading his novel, The Humans, a favourite of mine.
How to Stop Time is not a sequel to his earlier book but a most worthy successor. Here Haig continues in his quest to explore the human condition in his uniquely sweet and delicate way, once again through the eyes of a vulnerable character who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances.
The protagonist of How to Stop Time is named Tom but his name hardly matters for he has had to change it frequently over the centuries—that’s right, centuries, because Tom is over four hundred years old.
Very early on Tom urges the reader not to think of him as a vampire or something so ridiculous. Instead he “suffers” from anageria, a condition where the aging rate is dramatically slowed. There are others like him, though probably not many and, for the most part, they have decided to keep their identities (and especially their condition) secret. After a while, people start to notice when you don’t seem to age. You may get branded as a witch if you live in Elizabethan times (which Tom did) or you make be regarded as a valuable asset for bio-engineering companies in the 21st century (which Tom is).
Well! What a premise! As old as he is, Tom has personally known William Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He has seen history make all its banal mistakes over and over across the centuries. At the same time, like any human, Tom longs for love and human connection, but is it really possible for someone like him? For someone who will not seem to age while his friends, colleagues and lovers do?
In this book, Haig gives himself full license to comment on the foolishness of human behaviour over time, but he also writes about the parts of human behaviour where the universe can be contained in grain of sand, where a person can, in the only meaningful way possible, “stop time”.
How to Stop Time starts with a premise that might make you think you are reading a piece of science fiction or fantasy. In fact, it is mostly a story about courage, love, and celebrating the present moment.
In his acknowledgements at the end of the book, Haig writes, “I have never had as much fun writing a book.” It shows, and the reader is a great beneficiary of this fact.
Excellent read! Thank you, Mr. Haig!