Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Published by Canongate Books
Released 6th July 2017
336 Pages
Kindle Edition

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. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.


I must have been living under a rock for a long while as I actually didn’t know who Matt Haig was before hearing about How to Stop Time. Bad right? How to Stop Time was the book that one of my book clubs were reading for their January meeting so I had to read it you know? I went into this book with an open mind, not knowing what to expect.

Tom Hazard may look like a normal 41 year old man but he has a secret. Due to an extremely rare condition he’s been alive for centuries. He’s seen a lot from Elizabethan England and Jazz Age Paris to New York and the South Seas but now wants an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive and safe Tom now has a perfect cover – a history teacher at an East London school. It’s here where he can teach children about the history he has witnessed without anyone knowing he was there. He can try all he wants to tame the past but it is slowly catching up with him. The only thing he needs to do is not fall in love. If only that was so simple.

I liked this book more than I thought if I’m being honest with you. I was really impressed with how unique it was and how much effort had been put into the plot and concept. The idea of someone ageing very slowly I found to be really intriguing and I just wanted to find out more and more about the condition Tom had. Hooked is the word I could use to describe my feelings towards How to Stop Time.

Usually time jumps are something that I hate when reading fiction – I usually get confused and have to put the book down for a while, however this wasn’t the case with How to Stop Time. The time jumps were really easy to follow and when you went back to that specific time frame a few chapters later you knew exactly where you were. Also, the time periods you go to are so interesting that you don’t mind. I loved going through the middle ages to the present day. I admire how much research went into the history behind the book. It must’ve taken weeks or even months to get everything as accurate as can be. So kudos to you Matt!

With regards to the storyline it certainly doesn’t go the way you expect. Yes, you may think it’s going to involve a lot of love but you would be wrong. There’s so many twists and turns and I for one was shocked at most of them (I may have gasped a lot when reading this in public). I also love how real the whole story seems. It was very raw at times and rather emotional too; a few tears were shed. It does make you feel something let’s just put it that way.

Tom as a character I felt was pretty damaged but likeable at the same time. I admired his bravery despite all the things he’d seen throughout his long life. There was a scene with his mum that I just broke down at bringing me back to the emotional feel of this book that I mentioned earlier. You could tell at times he wanted to give up but he kept on going. A true role model I’d say wouldn’t you? 

How to Stop Time was an emotional tale that kept me hooked from start to finish. I was surprised at how the plot itself went but I do like to be kept guessing. It also made me question the concept of time and what it would be like to live for hundreds of years, so you could say it’s also a thought provoking read. Either way I am still thinking about it now.


Matt Haig was born in Sheffield, England in1975. He writes books for both adults and children, often blending the worlds of domestic reality and outright fantasy, with a quirky twist. His bestselling novels are translated into 28 languages. The Guardian has described his writing as ‘delightfully weird’ and the New York Times has called him ‘a novelist of great talent’ whose writing is ‘funny, riveting and heartbreaking’.

His novels for adults are The Last Family in England, narrated by a labrador and optioned for film by Brad Pitt; The Dead Fathers Club (2006), an update of Hamlet featuring an 11-year-old boy; The Possession of Mr Cave (2008), about a man obsessed with his daughter’s safety, and The Radleys (2010) which won Channel 4’s TV Book Club public vote and was shortlisted for a Galaxy National Book Award (UK). The film rights to all his adult novels have been sold. His next adult novel is How to Stop Time (2017).

His multi-award winning popular first novel for children, Shadow Forest, was published in 2007 and its sequel, The Runaway Troll, in 2009. His most recent children’s novel is To Be A Cat (2012). 

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