Sunday, 29 December 2019

How to Stop Time

Probably the last book review of the year.

I absolutely loved this. Picked it up in an Audible sale and had no idea what it was about. Fell in love with it almost instantly.

How to Stop Time tells a love story across the ages—and for the ages—about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live. It is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

This surprised me, because I'm not a big time travel fan, although I am a long-life fan. I like vampire stories for that reason, and The Children of Lir is entirely about what happens if you outlive all those you love - which this is also about. So it resonated. 

The main character, Tom Hazard, has a genetic condition called anageria, which means he ages extremely slowly. He's around four-hundred years old but only appears to be in middle age. I liked this, because it's almost plausible. There are genetic conditions such as progeria, which affects Adalia Rose, and causes her to age extremely quickly, and Brooke Megan Greenberg who completely stopped ageing. There have been other cases of 'syndrome X'.

It's not beyond the realms of possibility. 

The story itself is gentle yet fascinating. One of those reads that really opens your mind to the 'what if...' What if you lived so long that the memories gave you a headache?

...all we can ever be is faithful to our memories of reality rather than the reality itself, which is something closely related, but never precisely the same thing.


It is all right if you know you only have another thirty or forty years. You can afford to think small. You can find it easy to imagine that you are a fixed thing, inside a fixed nation, with a fixed flag, and a fixed outlook. You can imagine that these things mean something.

The longer you live, the more you realise that nothing is fixed. Everyone will become a refugee if they live long enough. Everyone would realise their nationality means little in the long run. Everyone would see their worldviews challenged and disproved. Everyone would realise that the thing that defines a human being is being a human being.


I had been to sea before, but being at sea no longer felt like being at sea. The progress of humanity seemed to be measured in the distance we placed between ourselves and nature. We could now be in the middle of the Atlantic, on a steam ship such as the Etruria, and feel as if we were sitting in a restaurant in Mayfair.


And [the tree] has stayed there, calmly in its spot, growing slowly, producing leaves, losing leaves, producing more, as those mammoths became extinct, as Homer wrote The Odyssey, as Cleopatra reigned, as Jesus was nailed to a cross, as Siddhartha Gautama left his palace to weep for his suffering subjects, as the Roman Empire declined and fell, as Carthage was captured, as water buffalo were domesticated in China, as the Incas built cities, as I leaned over the well with Rose, as America fought with itself, as world wars happened, as Facebook was invented, as millions of humans and other animals lived and fought and procreated and went, bewildered, to their fast graves, the tree had always been the tree. That was the familiar lesson of time. 

There were some lovely similes and metaphors: 'I stand like a vertical headache,' 'I'm a crowd in one body.' The idea that people don't learn from history and that the 21st century might just be a bad cover version of the 20th. Plus some important lessons on life, which I should probably heed:

You have to stop flicking ahead and just concentrate on the page you're on.

Also, some nice wordplay, such as this poem:

The Way
That when you
On their side
Look like
A long way
Made out

And the idea that social media emojis mean that language is evolving into a new form of hieroglyphics.

There's too much in this to bundle up into a blog post, so do go pick up a copy. The Audible narration by Mark Meadows was spot on and matched the story perfectly. 

Just a really interesting, unique read.

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