How to Stop Time, Matt Haig,
Edinburgh, Canongate Books LTD, 2017
-Effective concept, awfully executed-
Last year, Haig’s book How to Stop Time was everywhere. It sat eagerly in my reading list until Christmas came and Waterstones had a ‘Black Friday’ sale on and just like that it was mine. So, as you can imagine I was super excited to get started. I have never read any of Matt Haig’s novels before but had heard a lot of good things about his writing through my friends at university. The bright blue cover and Graham Norton describing it ‘absolutely terrific’ drew me in further. I started it and loved the first few pages, I thought the concept was interesting about a man that doesn’t age. Then, quite quickly I started to get lost in the story. There wasn’t a strong element of a driven plot and more a telling of this mans life. The narrative flits back and forth around time and can be quite hard to understand what is going on.
Matt Haig is the number one bestselling author for Reasons to Stay Alive. He also has six other highly praised novels. The sequel to Reasons to Stay Alive is being released July 2018 and will be called Notes on a Nervous Planet. He was born in Sheffield in 1975, he studied English and History at Hull University. He is married to Andrea Semple and they have two children. Haig has written for adults, children and young adults. He has been awarded the Blue Peter Book Award and the Smarties Book Prize and has been shortlisted a few times for the Carnegie Medal. How to Stop Time was the Sunday Times bestseller and a Richard and Judy Book Club Pick. There are rumours that a film maybe being created for the novel.
The novel begins with a short section of present day and the protagonist telling us a little summary about his life, ‘I am old.’ (pg 5). It then moves into another country, three weeks earlier, then the next chapter is London present day. Although it does state it, it is quite hard as a reader to remember and allow this structure to flow. As the novel progresses the time jumps back further hundreds of years and back forward to present day in the next chapter. It all gets a little confusing to follow what the narrator is trying to explain to us and to understand and feel empathy for the character. The time jumps create very misleading structure to the novel and seems to lose a lot of plot. I understand the main character is old and has lived a long time, but the jumpy timeline is hard to follow as well as understand the story. Once you begin to learn all about him you are left with very little plot. There does not seem to be much happening for the majority of the novel other than name dropping and being a part of a lot of history events. I am alive the same time as Ed Sheeran, that does not mean that I worked with him on his latest songs, I haven’t been friends with Usain Bolt or David Beckham. Just seems very strange that he can go through all these time periods and seem to be involved the historic events and know the ‘celebrities’ etc.
I felt like the book was quite lagging and boring. The whole concept of the book is brilliant, a man who does not age has experienced all these wonderful things yet cannot experience love because he always outlives his lover. All these meanings and though processes are there, but Haig did not accomplish this the way I would have liked. I think it was too long winded, too ‘name-droppy’ and the whole thing did not flow, which is a shame because I was so excited to read it and read some of Haig’s work.
The writing is beautiful, and the characterisation of the main characters is fantastic. The way the main character has such strong analytic descriptions for everyone he meets really says a lot about who he is. The writing is what pushed it up to a two star rating, the description of every minor detail just works. You can put yourself into the time period very well, it is just hard to follow what is actually happening. Due to this, I will try another Haig novel and I hope to be pleasantly surprised. I would advise you all to try it yourselves because so many people have raved about this book. The reviews are very mixed some seem to struggle, some seem to love it. Let me know what you thought when and if you decide to read it!!!