Matt Haig’s latest novel, How To Stop Time (review copy from Canongate) was a bit of a disappointment. The story follows Tom Hazard, a man born in Elizabethan England whose body ages at a much slower rate than normal human beings. Along with the other ‘albas’ Tom is part of a society aimed at preserving the secret of their unusual existence, principally by supporting people to periodically reinvent themselves with new jobs and identities before suspicion at their youthfulness becomes dangerous.
For most of his life Tom has been an unthinking member of that society, working to recruit other members when albas are discovered, or eliminate threats to the society. But he is increasingly starting to question whether this is the right course of action. His values are increasingly becoming out of step with the society and he increasingly struggles to commit to its work. A move back to East London and a job as a history teacher force Tom to confront his past and his desire to live a settled life free from deception.
The frequent flash-backs to Tom’s past life make this a very choppy novel. It is fractured and fragmented. While this reflects the intrusion of his memories of the past into Tom’s present day life, it serves to interrupt the narrative flow., risking pushing the reader out of the novel.
Ultimately, I was not convinced. The ending feels rushed and the changes of heart from various characters feel unconvincing in their rapidity and firmness. Go read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North instead. It’s a much better book.
Goodreads rating: 2*