How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom has a big secret. He’s 439 years old. And he’s not the only one. There is a whole organization of albas, what the long-lived call themselves, dedicated to maintaining the secret of their existence. Tom has been a member of the organization for over a hundred years, living by their rules and never questioning them. He recreates his life every eight years; a new job, new location, a whole new life so no one catches on that he doesn’t age. And he hasn’t fallen in love, the first rule of the albas. And he hasn’t wanted to since his beloved wife died of the plague. Then he met the French teacher at his school and he’s finding it very difficult to follow the first rule.

Structurally the book does jump around in time, but you only follow one character and the author clearly states the when and where of each chapter. Even if you aren’t a fan of non-linear narratives this is one that it is hard to get lost in both because of the date-stamp on the chapter headings and because the writing is so clear that you are immersed in the time period even if it only goes on for a handful of pages. Tom is a developed character, but still a man of mystery. We don’t know how he spent all of his years, we only get what he considers the highlights, which are telling for being the instances of his life which are chosen to be told.

I finished this book a few days ago and it’s sticking with me. What would it be like to live that long? What personal rules would you live by to keep your sanity and your sense of wonder with the world? I liked that the author didn’t come right out and wax philosophical on these questions but showed the reader how different individuals coped with their pseudo-immortality.