How to Stop Time

By Matt Haig

82,722 ratings - 3.85* vote

"She smiled a soft, troubled smile and I felt the whole world slipping away, and I wanted to slip with it, to go wherever she was going... I had existed whole years without her, but that was all it had been. An existence. A book with no words."Tom Hazard has just moved back to London, his old home, to settle down and become a high school history teacher. And on his first d "She smiled a soft, troubled smile and I felt the whole world slipping away, and I wanted to slip with it, to

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Book details

Paperback, 352 pages
June 11th 2019 by Penguin Books

(first published July 6th 2017)

Original Title
How to Stop Time
0525522891 (ISBN13: 9780525522898)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


I guess I should straight off the bat tell you what happened when I finished reading "The Humans." And yes, I know this is supposed to be a review about "How to Stop Time." Bear with me. So, I finished "The Humans" and I a)wept b) started it again immediately c) spent the next two years giving it to everyone on my gift list and basically insisting everyone read it. My ace in the hole has always been this - "If the road gets rocky (and everyone's road gets rocky sometimes) I can re-read "The Humans" and I'll feel that feeling again, that I'm not alone, that there is hope, that there is goodness."
Okay, enough about "The Humans" and I write this as an unabashedly huge fan of the way Matt Haig puts words on paper. Let me tell you about "How to Stop Time." Wait. No. You know, I read a lot of reviews here on "Goodreads" and think wow, bingo, right on, so well done! I really admire reviewers who are able to articulate what often just feels like a jumble in my own mind over a reaction to a book.
You don't need me to tell you what this novel is about, that blurb is up top there, right by the book. See? Yeah. It's about that.
One of my friends went to the London Book Fair and scored an advance copy. Because she's one of the people I encouraged (forced/insisted/wrangled int0) reading "The Humans" and she also fell in love with the book, she came to my work and dropped off the newest novel last week. In. My. Hands. I'm serious. I could see it in her eyes, I could see it, I barely could function for the rest of my shift and I wrapped it up so it would not get anything on it at all. She said, "You know how you loved "The Humans," right?" I nodded. She said, "Well, he was just clearing his throat. Wait until you go into this one." Can you imagine? Can you? Try. Think kind of shaky, breath a bit rapid and shallow, scared and excited, all at the same time.
I (get this) PUT IT ASIDE for six days. There must be an award somewhere for this. Get it for me. I deserve it. I wanted a day where I had no work to go to and so I waited. That day was yesterday. I got up and ate the oatmeal pretty quickly. I made the tea. I sat in my chair. Aside from tea breaks (during which I drank the tea fast and ran back to my chair - picture the menopausal sweaty woman in track pants and polar fleece because it's still SNOWING here these days) - and I read and I read and I read.
I nodded so much I looked like one of those little plastic dogs you have seen if you are of a certain age that used to be in the back of cars, those nodding plastic dogs. Did their eyes light up? Maybe some did. The posh ones. So I nodded and I nodded and I nodded. And I wept. And I laughed. And I finished the last page.
You know, there's lot of clever authors. There are. Good with words. Big brains. Able to both craft and execute a complex plot line. They're out there. I've read their books. Many of them. Books have been my sustenance for a very long time (but now also fishing and billiards of late).
This is what I think. Matt Haig's huge heart (and it may well be the biggest one I've encountered) is equally matched by his huge mind. He cares so deeply. He cares about us, we humans. He cares because we suffer. He cares because we try, we try. And fall down and try again. He has such a far-reaching compassion for humanity that I sit here and think to myself, how can I ever begin to tell you, reader people? How can I tell you? The world is a much softer place for me because of these two novels. My friend was right, the one who loaned me this novel. You'll see, you'll see how this one came into being, how his mind works. It seems so simple really to ponder what he says... what if we were kind? What if we were brave? What if we really let ourselves care?
I sent an email to my friend (she asked for one word of what I thought, I'm taking her to dinner in April so we can discuss it properly)...
"I wept.
I felt like he wrote it just for me.
I am sure many people will feel that, yes?"

She said:
"Yes, they will.
You summed it up perfectly. "

If you're still reading this, thank you, I know it's long. Okay, you know the drill, run, run, run to the bookstore. Run.


Emily May

This is my second book by Matt Haig and, to be honest, it's probably going to be my last. Everything from his writing style to his characters to his (lack of) plot doesn't seem to be working for me.

How to Stop Time is about Tom Hazard who looks like your average forty-something guy but actually has a rare condition that makes him age slower than the average human. So he's around five-hundred years old. Wow, sounds interesting! Right? Except that's kinda it. There's very little story or forward momentum beyond that.

Tom spends the whole book wallowing in self-pity over having been alive so long and having to abide by the rules of the Albatross Society - a group for people like him. He constantly churns out cliches about how everything changes but nothing changes, which is said over and over again in different ways. He's so whiny and self-absorbed.

And if you think it's going to be all sweet and romantic like The Time Traveler's Wife because the blurb is all about how he can't fall in love and how this is a "a love story across the ages"-- this is misleading. It's not romantic at all. He spends most of the book grieving for his dead wife and maybe I’m a terrible terrible person for asking this, but is it really realistic that Tom’s grief still seems so fresh after more than 300 years?!

Maybe I am just heartless.

There's also a really bad flow of narration. The time-jumps in the middle of scenes made it difficult to settle into the rhythm of any time period. And a lot of these feel pointless. It’s like “time period of the week” or, in this case, the chapter. Tom zips all over the place, having a lot of quirky random adventures and meeting everyone from Shakespeare to Omai to F. Scott Fitzgerald but there is actually VERY LITTLE STORY.

It seemed like a random bunch of name-dropping and historical event-dropping. Because of course this guy was present at almost every major historical event across the globe in his several hundred years of life AND met almost every famous person you've ever heard of. I'm exaggerating. But why would he have met all these people just because he was alive at the same time? I’m alive right now in 2018, but that doesn’t mean I hang out with Beyonce and the 14th Dalai Lama.

I could not suspend that much disbelief.

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Joachim Stoop

Review coming up in about 400 years

Elyse Walters

Library Audiobook......

Something must be wrong with me......This is the novel everyone is raving about?

I’m doing it again......Throwing in the towel....NOT GOING TO FINISH....

It’s NOT that anything is morally wrong with this book —- there are even some wise messages and heartfelt moments — but mostly I was kinda bored.
I would never call this ‘fiction nonsense’ ( cough cough)- like the last book I didn’t finished where I was pounded over the head by a guy, ( not really - haha - but a little), for writing a review- having only read 41%. —- its just that this book wasn’t quite the right fit for me.

Usually I’m not a fan of time travels anyway- ( 11/23/63 was a one time exception- I was sure of it) - but then I read Diane Chamberlain’s new book, “The Dream Daughter”, and thought she crafted a fascinating novel where I was authentically stimulated by the challenge she presented. I had to suspense belief - but there was ‘plenty’ that ‘was’ believable. I was addictively curious to the last page.
So....I figured, 3rd time must be a charm - I’d try again with this popular and mostly favorable by readers - time-travel’ book.

41% seems to be my breaking point - I just wanted to move on. I was getting bored.
With so many other books at hands reach - I didn’t feel a need to ‘have’ to continue.
Read OTHER reviews- many readers LOVE this book!!!!

Rating for approx 41%. > 2-2.5 stars

Angela M

4+ stars

I’m captivated by a good time travel story and while this is not a time travel story in the strictest sense, I was reminded of a few favorites - Jack Finney’s Time and Again , Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife . I couldn’t help but think of all three of these at the very beginning of the story : “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.” Of course, the main character in each of these books falls in love. Our protagonist Tom Hazard takes us back and forth across centuries from the now through flashbacks to his past not just years ago, but centuries ago. No he’s not time traveling. He’s just very old, due to his affliction which causes him to age at a much slower rate than normal and in Tom’s case he ages in appearance a year for every fifteen years so now he is over 400 years old. So it is his memory that takes us back to the time when he fell in love with Rose in 1599 and when their daughter was born

If I haven’t lost you already, I’ll try to make the case for this story. What I said in my review of Jack Finney’s book Time and Again held true for me here: When I read a time travel story, I try not to dwell on how the character got to this other time and place. It just doesn't pay because then I start asking questions for which there is no realistic answer. So for me it has to be about the destination, what I find there, what happens there, what it means for the character in his or her present day. What we find in Tom’s past is a lonely, sad life with moments of joy that he has to run from in order to keep his loved ones safe. All of this connected to his desire to lead a normal life and find his daughter as we find him in the now teaching history in a London school.

There are also moments where I found sheer enjoyment - from when he works at the Globe Theater for Shakespeare to when he plays the piano at Ciro’s in Paris and meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, among others. I also loved the appearance of the famous Dakota apartment building in New York City in the 1890’s as it is also in Jack Finney’s book. The story has an ominous side to it as well in the character of Hendrich, head of the society claiming to protect those with the affliction.

This was lovely way to spend a snowy weekend taking a trip down Tom Hazard’s memory lane - all 400 years of it. Amid the fear and loss and loneliness there is a lot of love in this creative and captivating story as well as some things to think about for sure - what it means to live one’s life, what are the important things, the things to hold precious. To those who just don’t think they can accept the premise of the story I say the same thing I said about Finney’s book: Imagine you are in another time, in another place with people you don't yet know. It doesn’t have to be a story about time travel; it could be a fantasy, a mystery, a story that takes place in history or in the future because isn’t this what we as readers of any fiction are ultimately summoned to do when we begin that first page of any story.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Viking through Edelweiss.

Larry H

4.5 stars for this one.

"If you saw me, you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong. I am old — old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old."

Because of a rare medical condition, Tom Hazard has been alive since the 1500s. Born into a wealthy French family, he has traveled all over the world, assumed many different identities, and led a life characterized by adventure, trauma, emotion, and loneliness. Tom has performed with Shakespeare, explored with Captain Cook, shared a cocktail with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and experienced the drastic changes the world has undergone through the centuries.

Even though he has seen incredible things, what Tom wants more than anything is a normal life. He had that once, back in Shakespeare's time, when he met a woman and fell in love, but as his unchanging appearance caught the notice of suspicious and fearful townspeople, he had to leave that life behind. Yet he's never stopped thinking of her and wishing things were different, that he was different.

"So, don't think of me as a sexy vampire, stuck for ever at peak virility. Though I have to say it can feel like you are stuck for ever when, according to your appearance, only a decade passes between the death of Napoleon and the first man on the moon."

Those like Tom are watched over by a group called the Albatross Society, which protects them and ensures they keep their longevity a secret from the general public. The shadowy head of the society, Hendrich, controls Tom and calls in favors to move him to place to place every eight years (since that is about the period of time before people notice he doesn't seem to grow any older). But Hendrich has his own ulterior motives, and his own methods of ensuring Tom and his brethren are kept in check. And the one major rule Hendrich has impressed upon Tom for many years now? Never fall in love.

Tom's latest persona is as a history teacher in London, a place that stirs old memories for him, memories of love and loss. But when he meets a beautiful French teacher who seems to think she's seen him before, he starts to wonder whether the rules to which he's adhered are truly worth it. What good is living for hundreds of years if you have to do so alone, without letting anyone get close to you? But Hendrich will stop at nothing, will use everything and anyone to ensure his charges comply with his rules.

This is a fascinating, beautiful, moving book about love, loss, loneliness, and adventure. How to Stop Time shifts between Tom's current life and the different persona he assumed throughout the years. It's both a rollicking adventure through time and a love story through time, populated with fascinating characters and events.

Matt Haig is a tremendous storyteller, and I found this book so creative, poignant, and enjoyable. It gets a little slow at times, but for the most part it's just such a beautiful story. Obviously, some suspension of disbelief is necessary for a story like this, but at its core, it's a book that explores universal themes. Definitely a winner.

NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

Maggie Stiefvater

A melancholy novel about a man who lives for hundreds of years, unable to move past the true love he outlived — or perhaps the idea of the person he was when he was with his true love.

Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

There comes a time when the only way to start living is to tell the truth. To be who you are, even if it is dangerous.

So, I'm breaking the rule of not sharing a quote on an ARC book. You kind of have to know if you are going to read this you like pretty flowery writing? It's pretty full of that.

Tom is old. Very old. He just does not look it. He has been alive for centuries. No, he isn't one of those sparkly vampires.

He has a condition that causes him to age much slower than the normal human. Of course, that causes problems. Whether in the olden days where they suspected everyone of witchcraft or the 20th century where we can just be dingdongs. Tom has challenges.

He is taken under a secret 'society's' wing where he meets people with the same condition that he has. There are rules. Never fall in love. (yawn) Move somewhere new and start over every eight years because people start to wonder why you are not getting any older.

But Tom is depressed. He can never forget the woman he loved years and years ago. He is missing another piece of his life and has been searching for it for a long time. He whines about these two things for most of the get ready!

And he has met several famous people. Shakespeare, Captain Cook. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker. (This took away from the story for I had to roll my eyes a few times-but then I'm an old heifer.)

I didn't hate this book but I sure did not love it.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.


You have to choose to live...
Exceptional story, out-of-the-box subject: 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... Imagine, living in times of Shakespeare, Napoleon, up to today.... And try to be invisible, as people may be looking for you.... And whatever happens, don't fall in love.
A story about love and making choices. I like this writer.


4.5 stars - I loved this one!

Most of us have heard of progeria, a condition that is characterized by accelerated aging. Young children with the disorder have the appearance and medical conditions of the very aged. In this book Tom Hazard has the opposite, a condition called anageria, where the aging process is slowed down. Tom is over 400 years old but looks to be in his 40s. He can expect to live close to another 600 years. It’s a rare condition, but there are others like Tom.

For a culture that is obsessed with anti-aging products and plastic surgery, this sounds like a dream come true. But not so fast. There are downsides. Members of the scientific community know of their existence and want to imprison them for experimentation. There’s also the pain of watching everyone you know and love grow old and die. So, in order to protect themselves, one (nearly impossible) rule is to never fall in love, and a second rule is they must move and assume new identities every 8 years. It’s a lonely existence.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but Tom has endured painful losses and now roams the world, weary and emotionally spent, searching for the daughter who shares his condition. Along the way he muses about his life and the people he’s met, including Captain Cook, Shakespeare and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

These interludes are Tom’s memories, not fully fleshed out characters. I enjoyed them but this section did drag a little bit. There’s also a small thriller element, but the main focus of the novel is a poignant look at life: what does it mean to live, what makes life worthwhile, how to embrace life without worrying about a future we can’t see. These are universal lessons for all of us, regardless of the amount of years we have on this earth. My e-book is filled with highlighted passages, words that resonated with me.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book. (Keep in mind these may not be in the final published book):

“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don’t expect, I feel civilization has become a little safer.”

“To teach feels like you are the guardian of time itself, protecting the future happiness of the world via the minds that are yet to shape it.”

“That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days – some years – some decades – are empty. There is nothing to them. It is just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.”

"Many of us have every material thing we need, so the job of marketing is now to tie the economy to our emotions, to make us feel like we need more by making us want things we never needed before. We are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly traveled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly is we aren’t photo-shopped and filtered.”

On the effect of music: ”Music doesn’t get in. Music is already in. Music simply uncovers what is there, makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you, and runs around waking them all up.”

"Just as it only takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. You just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself: who am I? If I could live without doubt what would I do? If I could be kind without fear of being f*cked over? If I could love without fear of being hurt? If I could taste the sweetness of today without thinking of how I will miss that taste tomorrow. If I could not fear the passing of time and the people it will steal? What would I do? Who would I care for? What battle would I fight? What paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself?...How in short, would I live?"

Mr. Haig is quite the storyteller. Highly recommended!

*I received this e-galley via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
*thanks to my fellow traveling sisters for reading this with me!