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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Review - Matt Haig: How To Stop Time

Matt Haig
How To Stop Time (4*)

I enjoyed this immensely. It interleaves several stories connected across the centuries. Tom, the protagonist, was born in 1581, but has a condition called anageria, which means he ages so slowly that today he only seems forty-one. A few others have the same condition, and a secret organisation protects them from the dangers they face if discovered. It is a great plot with lots of historical name-dropping.

The book also posits various philosophical beliefs, such as that the weight of memory can be painful - perhaps a warning to ancient bloggers like me who write about the past and often feel like they have been here for several centuries already.

Matt Haig is a very good writer, but in just a small number of places he seems not to have revised the text to the same high standard as elsewhere. He also makes an enormous historical howler. Early in the book, Tom consults the Victorian physician Dr. Jonathan Hutchinson, one of the first to identify the rapid-ageing condition progeria. Hutchinson (like many other characters in the book) did exist in reality. I know about him because I once visited the museum he founded in his home town of Selby, Yorkshire (sadly, the museum closed in the nineteen-seventies). In the book, Haig's secret organisation bumps Hutchinson off in 1891, but he actually lived until 1913. If in doubt look on genealogical resources which clearly place him at Haslemere, Surrey, in the 1911 census, and index his will in 1913. Did Haig have to rush the book to a deadline?

Key to star ratings: 5* would read over and over again, 4* enjoyed it a lot and would recommend, 3* enjoyable/interesting, 2* didn't enjoy, 1* gave up.

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