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Book Club Review: How To Stop Time

Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time is deliberately different to any books we have read so far.

Previously, authors like Plaidy have given us very straight-forward takes on the historical novel, to the point that we are able to learn our history from them. Haig’s work is less a historical novel and more science-fiction.

The tone is very philosophical and very current. There are references to ‘fake news’ and ‘snowflakes’ which have only recently entered common communication. The tone does make it easier for modern readers to relate to the characters from long ago. It wonderfully expresses an idea that is incredibly important: history is about real people.

Haig gives a snapshot of each time period as we follow the protagonist through his unnaturally long lifetime. It lacks a lot of historical detail but it gives a sense of each scene as a memory, which was very apt. The human experience is key.

We did question why the main character is a Huguenot as his faith is not explored at all. Mainly, it seems to be a plot device to show him as a persecuted outsider before even exploring his ‘condition’. Themes of discrimination and strangeness are clearly examined in the book and examined well.

Despite not being a historical novel in the usual sense, we loved it.

The main conceit of the novel, that the narrator has unusual longevity, worked and the author took pains to explain the condition in a way that did not jar with the reader. The story was a fluent and engaging read. Once you start it, you will find it difficult to put down.

In May, we are reading The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl. This is an entertaining biographical study of a time in Shakespeare’s life when he lodged in the upstairs room of a London house belonging to the Mountjoys, a Huguenot family, who made ‘attire’ for royalty and wealthy Londoners. He found himself a witness in a court case, which gives us a rare biographical source for Shakespeare’s life.

We will be meeting on Thursday 31st May at 2pm. The club is free and we will be discussing the next novel over tea and biscuits.