How to Stop Time Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
"'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.'"
A love story across the ages - and for the ages - about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history - performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
So Tom moves back his to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher - the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city's history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: Never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society's watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can't have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 1 minute|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||February 06, 2018|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #3,561 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#16 in Time Travel Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#25 in Historical Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#45 in Time Travel Fiction
Reviewed in the United States on September 16, 2018
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As it turns out there are others in the world with the same condition and eventually they are discovered by a covert society called Albatross. The society protects them, allowing them to live in a normal setting for eight years before getting an assignment, then relocating with a new identity. One thing that keeps Tom motivated to live (as he could kill himself to end this existence) is a desire to find his daughter Marion. She apparently inherited his genetic disposition and may be somewhere in the world trying to hide her identity.
In his long life Tom has met F. Scott Fitzgerald, Captain Cook and Shakespeare among other historical figures. The book is divided by time periods and places. Recently I read Benedict Cumberbatch has acquired film rights to star in the production. For what it's worth, I prefered The Midnight Library to this book but I never considered abandoning the book.
Our HST hero, narrator Tom Hazard, was born March 3, 1581 and he is still alive today; he appears to be in his early 40’s. Yes, Tom ages very slowly, and while this first appears to be a good thing, it does present problems over the years. After all, friends and neighbors will notice at some point that he doesn’t seem any older than he did eight years ago when they first met. When Tom was just a kid, witchcraft in his family was suspected, and we know what they did to witches. In some respects things haven’t improved much for those with his condition over the centuries – imagine what a guinea pig he would become today. So Tom can only survive through the ages by becoming a rolling stone, and eight years seems to be about the critical point to move on. Obviously a story with all kinds of flashback opportunities.
Over the years, Tom comes to realize that he is not the only one blessed/afflicted with this condition. There is even a secret society, and their first goal is to survive within ever-changing communities. The society has one rule – never fall in love. Though not stated as such there is a second rule and that is never tell anyone of your condition because you will endanger all other albas. Now don’t assume like I did that this story morphs into some nice sweet little romance. Ninety percent of this 331 page novel is how Tom survives over the centuries. But the anchor timepoint of HST is today, and slowly the story keeps coming back to today. Tom has just taken on a new job as a history teacher (a natural position, right? After all, he knew Shakespeare personally!) and he is soon attracted to a young lady colleague.
On the rare occasions that I have read “fantasies”, I have often become frustrated by holes in the story, mostly points where the story v. reality gap becomes enormous and distracting. To really make a story like HST work requires a ton of unusual plotting and other work on the part of the author. Haig has done that with this story and hats off to him for it. HST works. So, why not five star? Is there a message? Yes, but nothing that blew me away. Secondly, the story occasionally slowed down for me. I thought it would have benefitted from a bit more excitement, or tension. There is one such scene with Tom as a young boy, but I would have been more tightly engaged with the book had there been at least one other similar episode. I just noted this will be a movie with Benedict Cumberbatch which strikes me as perfect casting. Hopefully the movie people won’t add seven more adventure scenes.
I would have shortened the book a bit by eliminating a few historical episodes and some of the narrator’s musings, although most of the writing is very competent. Some sentences I thought were good: “ I just want it all To slow down; I want to make a forest Of a moment And live in that forest For ever (caps not mine)”; “It is strange how close the past is, even when you imagine it to be so far away. Strange how it can just jump out of a sentence and hit you”; “The past is not one separate place. It is many, many places”.
Top reviews from other countries
If ever a book deserved 5 stars it's this one. I devoured this book and struggled to tear myself away from it but the kids needed feeding, the boyfriend needs attention & I suppose I had to sleep 😒
This book was so well written that I had to keep reminding myself I was reading a work of fiction and not an autobiography. I got completely caught up in Tom and his story. The author effortlessly took the story from present day to varying times in Tom's life but it never felt confusing or strange. You totally believed it.
The voice and atmosphere of each point in history was captured vividly and I could really see Tom there doing those things. Those little details, minute touches of information about things that actually happened, made it all the more real.
I loved this book so much I was genuinely sad for it to end. I could've kept reading about Tom's life for much longer. This is one of those rare books that changes your perception, makes you think about life in a different and stays with you long after you've read it. I know this is a book I'll read many times over.
Parts I liked:
First - the good stuff. The historical sections were really interesting and opened up worlds I didn't know about; the part about the witch hunts and his mother were especially haunting and engaging. The premise is interesting and novel, almost like time-travel but without the narrative problems often encountered in time travel stories. It's an effective but simple concept that really makes you want to read it to find out what happens. Some of the writing is very beautiful and touching and there were parts which genuinely moved me - I found the part towards the beginning where Rose dies really heartbreaking.
The not so much parts:
Despite the good points, I often found it a chore to read. I can't really put my finger on exactly why - I just didn't really care about most of the characters (aside from what I've mentioned above). The main character in particular is exceptionally whiny. The premise is a good one but I don't think it has been executed in a very engaging way. I find with Matt Haig's writing I am often very aware of the authorial voice, which slips into ponderous/pretentious at numerous points. He is determined to tell the reader how to approach life, and he does this in quite a clunky way. Some of the lines are clearly meant to be breathtaking "oh I never thought of it like that" type lines, but I think this just takes the reader out of the story. All these added up to me giving up on the book - not really deliberately, but I just picked it up more and more infrequently and found it a chore whenever I did so, until eventually I just stopped picking it up. I like Matt Haig and I like some of his other books (in particular "Reasons to Stay Alive" which is wonderful). This just didn't do it for me, sorry.
In parts, it was quite fun for its depictions of different historical periods, its worldbuilding around the concept of these “albatrosses” as the long-lived ones call themselves, and its meditations on what he practical and psychological effects of a life like that would be.
But I thought it was pretty flawed in several ways. Firstly, it couldn’t resist the obvious trap of having the hero participate in far too many famous historical events and meet far too many famous historical people than was remotely believable. I was much more interested – and much more able to suspend belief – when it came to scenes of him living a normal life in medieval or Tudor times.
Secondly, after centuries of forsaking love, partly to avoid being hurt, partly due to the rules of his society, it was hard to see what suddenly attracted him to his modern day love interest. It felt rather sudden and forced. And thirdly, I found both her and modern day him so over-exaggeratedly right on in their interactions with each other and with the students at their school.
Overall, this had an interesting premise which it partially delivered on, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it.
Positives though, I enjoyed the early years, the time of witches, witch-finders and suspicion, and the evoking of British towns and cities at various times in history. Also the little insights into how people used to think, like rotten and blackened teeth were once a sign of prosperity, as those people could afford sugary treats. But it is to long, and it did feel a tiny bit preachy at times, and the current day stuff was very plain, rather dreary at times. So not all bad, just not that great either. Apparently Benedict Cumberbatch is attached to a possible film.
As could be expected of a story about a man who lives on and on as his loved ones die, there is an underlying Sartre-esque despair to the narrative, which is played with ironically by the inclusion of a French teacher as the love interest. Haig’s novel is thoroughly British, however. Self-doubt, subtle irony, Shakespeare, Tudor cottages, scenes of deprivation and poverty... Sounds like Python doesn’t it. And despite its somewhat heavyweight themes there is an edge of almost farcical satire to How to Stop Time.
As its cheeky title suggests, this is not a novel that takes itself too seriously. The prose and structure are both simple and beautiful. The characterisation is sophisticated and economical, the pace well-measured throughout. It’s a page turner from from beginning to end. A great one if you fancy something from the more Literary end of the science fiction genre.