Recent Reads: Matt Haig's 'How to Stop Time'.

I recently read (as part of my pledge to read exclusively Hyped-Up Hardbacks in the month of July) 'How to Stop Time', the latest fiction from the most excellent Matt Haig. 

The book tells the story of Tom Hazard, a man with a fairly uncommon condition – he grows old v-e-r-y slo-w-w-w-w-w-ly. But I don't mean like, he ages suspiciously well like some celebrities who must have sold their souls or some shit (Keanu Reeves, we're onto you). No I mean like, Tom still looked 18 when he was actually almost 200. 

In the 'present' portion of the book, we are following Tom at a time in his life when he passes for early 40s maybe, and gets a new grey hair every few decades. He's decided that after a turbulent existence here, there and everywhere (Elizabethan England, Jazz-Age Paris, New York and the South Seas), he wants to return to the big smoke and teach...history. Pretty perfect career move, to be honest. 

At some point in his unusual life, he was found by an undercover society of others like him – those afflicted with this little-known condition, Anageria. He was then given the chance to exist in small chunks of time, here and there all over the world, if he did the odd job for the king pin of the society, Hendrich, and abided by some strict rules.
Rule #1: do not fall in love.
...and guess what he already did? And is now in serious danger of doing again?!

I loved this book quite a bit. The story itself was utterly mad, as high concept as they come, and it was told excellently. I really enjoyed not just the reading of it, but the events I was able to attend around the time of its release; the launch ting in Foyles Charing Cross Road, where Matt chatted with the boss queen Bryony Gordon about not just the book but also mental health and his writing process, and then a very special Lush Book Club at their London HQ (shoutout to the angelic Lex for the invite and for brilliantly organising!).

I read 'How to Stop Time' in just under a fortnight (and really the only reason it took me so long was because I try not to lug hardbacks around in my handbag) and then immediately passed it on to Mama Latter – another big fan of Matt Haig, who attended the launch event with me at Foyles – because I knew this tale was right up her street. 

As she read my book, she'd occasionally message me with photos of pages I'd folded the corners of, guessing which particular sentence or paragraph on that page had resonated with me so much, or just tickled my fancy. 

She got it right most times – and then started sending me little bits she was finding particularly beautiful. 

One annoying thing about this read? Well, I'd found out just before starting it that this little-known theatrical guy Benedict Somethingorother had already bought the right to someday turn the story into a film – and so for the first half of the book, I was accidentally picturing a very Sherlocky Tom Hazard. Stupid brain of mine! I eventually managed to put him to one side and create my own Tom, though. But he resembled Matt Haig from time to time, actually... 

Matt Haig recently tweeted (shocker, I mean, he hardly uses Twitter...) that writing fiction was far more personal than writing non-fic. I completely agree. Yes, it's intensely intimate writing a memoir or opinion piece – you're basically giving people a peek into your life and letting them sniff your dirty laundry...wait, this fell apart. Hang on.

What I'm getting at is this: when you create something of your own, all by yourself, and then others find it and consume it – whether you are a writer fortunate enough to be published, or a baker opening up your own cafe, whatever. It's your creation and perhaps more of an insight into your mind and your heart than any biography, blog post or opinionated article could ever be. People will read your fiction and – hopefully – fall in love with this world and these characters that you've made for them. They'll see what has been forming inside your head for who knows how long, and they'll take in every little thing you have typed. That must be amazing and humbling, as an author, but also a bit freaking petrifying. 

Oh, Matt's also said this about writing fiction. I liked this theory too, tbf. 

'How to Stop Time' is a fantastic read – and a very welcome break from our hideous present day. I really think you should all get hold of it, readers. And let Tom Hazard teach you through time.

(And the new hardback, RRP £12.99, is only £6.43 on A Great Read!


  1. Ooh. I love the cover and I'm very curious after reading your review :)

    1. It's truly beautiful. I'm so glad you might be picking this up! x


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