How to stop time by Matt Haig

I don’t know about you, but one of the mini-anxieties that bothers me a little before reading a book is whether I will like the characters in the book. I don’t care (anymore) whether I will be able to recognize someone in the character as my current “I”, past “I” or the desired “I”. I’m more worried about whether the characters will be interesting and original; will the mixture of their motives, personality traits, worldviews and circumstances be so fresh as to satisfy my curiosity which is getting easier and tired of stories that are, pardon my French, the same shit, different packaging.

Tom Hazard (what last name, huh?) calmed my fears in the first sentences of this book. Oh yeah. This is a man who has a Story – an amazing, exciting, very complex life story. A story that no one has told us so far. How do I know?


How many people do you know that have a biological age of over four hundred years?

One of the reasons people don’t know about us is that most people aren’t prepared to believe it.

How to stop time By Matt Haig

Tom Hazard was born in 1581 with, as it will soon turn out, a very unusual and very dangerous condition – Tom does not grow old. More precisely, it happens so slowly – fifteen times slower than the average man – that it soon begins to attract the attention of people who see nothing miraculous in his condition.

When you get the attention of such people, you have to run to survive. Before he realizes the price of his life, he realizes that the price has been paid and that he must flee, carrying with him a promise that is becoming increasingly difficult for him to keep.

Decades pass, centuries pass, and Tom slowly realizes that there will never really be a time when his condition will be accepted with favor. What many would see as a blessing, or what they secretly fantasize about, is actually penance that is hard — ever harder — to bear.

“You can’t run way from everyting.”

“You’re wrong. You can. You can run and run and run. You can run your entire life. You can run and change and keep running.”

How to stop tine by Matt Haig

What keeps Tom alive centuries later is not the unusual ability of his body, but the promises he once made to those he loved the most and a quest he simply can’t give up.

Tom is not alone. There are people like him and there is an organization that finds, gathers and helps such people every few years helps them find a new role, a new identity, a new life, before their environment notices that they are not physically changing while everyone else is getting older.

But as time goes on and as Tom’s search for answers intensifies, Tom will begin to wonder if he is really helped by the people he has unconditionally trusted, with no other family or other friends, or just their puppet held by thickly woven threads of fear?

“There comes a time when the only way to start living is to tell the truth. To be who you really are, even if it is dangerous.”

How to stop time by Matt Haig

You who follow me know how much I have been absent and inactive as a book blogger in recent months. You who may only find me with this review, take a look at the date when the review was published before this one. Mhm. Well, I didn’t have that much time.

I read this book in a day and a half. Obligations reloaded a day and a half. At a time when I read an average of one book in ten days.

I’ve heard of Matt Haig before this title, but that something drew me to his books, it has not. I noticed this one, to be honest, because of the cover. I am a sucker for book covers.

This is an unusual book that jumps from the past to the present, so it jumps from genre to genre and it’s hard to place it somewhere. I love books like this when they are well written and well planned, and this book certainly is. Although, for example, I really liked Audrey Niffenegger’s book “The Time Traveler’s Woman”, it was a little harder for me to follow the jumps into the past and the future. In the book “How to stop time” I had no problem with that.

Although Tom Hazard travels back four hundred years through reminiscences and then takes us back to the “now and here” and although he can do so thanks to an ability that certainly belongs to science fiction, the topics he talks about are extremely important, be they universal or current.

“Life is an ultimate privilege.”

How to stop time by Matt Haig

One of the themes is that old man’s fantasy of eternal life – and if it can’t be eternal already, then at least it shouldn’t be so damn short. Living long and being young for a long time – isn’t that wonderful? Imagine what a man would get to try, what he would achieve? Probably fewer people would die regretting the things they always planned to do and didn’t. They would probably find it easier to come to terms with leaving.

Matt Haig, it seems, explored this uncomfortable wrestling issue through the character of Tom Hazard and came to some interesting conclusions that stand on one interesting question – What if a man is not mentally and emotionally made to live long?

The human mind has its own prison.

How to stop time by Matt Haig

Do you have a feeling that this question raises new questions? Oh yeah! But it’s something you and the book have to do with each other.

Another interesting topic is the question of identity (professional deformation raises two fingers); what we are, says the profession despite the fact that we sometimes protest, depends in large part on what we have inherited. One part of the “who we are” equation certainly depends on where we were born, what conditions we grew up in, what opportunities we had at our disposal.

But do we ever wonder to what extent we are depends on those we have?

If I were in Tom Hazard’s place now, and if I had a circle of friends, acquaintances and a family – and that in a hundred years they were gone – am I still the same Marta I was when I had them? No, I don’t think I would be the same Marta if one day I didn’t have ANY of all these people I have now. So who would I be then?

Because of this book, I began to think that our identity may be much more complex than it is described by the multitude of different sciences that deal with an individual’s identity.

This brings me to the third interesting topic I have been thinking about while reading this book.

The longer you live, the more you realize that nothing is fixed. Everyone will become a refugee if they live long enough. Everyone would realize their nationality means little in the long run. Everyone would see their world views challenged and disproved. Everyone would realize the thing that defines a human being is being a human.

How to stop time by Matt Haig

This theme is also very relevant. We humans seem to hold a lot to origins, to belonging to a certain people, to a group of people who live in a certain area, share certain beliefs and worldviews, practice a certain lifestyle.

Because of many such determinants, people were willing to go to war; even today they are ready to do the same in order to preserve “ours”. But how would, say, a proud Spartan feel today, if he miraculously contracted this “disease” that would allow him to be alive today? We don’t even have to go that far in time and space – we can, for example, ask all the elders from the Balkans what it’s like when they are no longer Yugoslavs. And does that mean that they are nothing anymore, now that they are no longer Yugoslavs? Do they fulfill with much less pride what is written to them today in the certificate of citizenship?

When centuries pass, and when many religions, nations and states disintegrate or change, one thing always remains the same – we are human. When we scrape off all the labels and all the terminology – all the tags, right – we are all just people.

It turns out, finally, that our contemporary preoccupations are also very universal; although we, unlike Tom, have no perspective of four hundred years of life to see it.

So what matters then? Does anything in the world matter at all and does anyone matter?

Well, that is exactly the main question that drives Tom’s search.

Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live?”

How to stop time by Matt Haig

Can I still draw you to this book? I can try. I can whisper to you that Tom Hazard hung out with some of the authors of books that are among the classics of world literature today. I think you’ll definitely want to know what kind of man William Shakespeare was and what that “drunk question” Zelda Fitzgerald would ask anyone who would join her for a drink.

Eh, and yes – reportedly the book will be on the movie screen soon and Benedict Cumberbatch will reportedly play Tom Hazard. Although I love Benedict, I don’t know if he’s the right person for the role, but at least he looks like someone who doesn’t age and who won’t have anything hanging on his face in 70 years.

As soon as I know more information, I will share it with you. Information about the film, of course. All I know about this book is that you have to put it on your to-read list.

2 thoughts on “How to stop time by Matt Haig”

  1. Great post!!! This is one of my absolute favourites!!! I adore Matt Haigs writing and the covers are always gorgeous!! Have you had a chance to check out Midnight Library yet??xx

    Liked by 1 person

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