Time. It’s a funny thing really, isn’t it? They say that time is merely a concept created by Humans to keep track of the past, present and future, a simple measurement to remain organised and survive. Without time, our ancestors would not have known when to plant crops or harvest them; vital fuel to take us through winter, or indeed even that (to quote GOT) ‘Winter is coming’…
So does time actually exist or is it in our minds? Is it a pressure we place on ourselves..or is it a reality? My personal opinion is that time does exist. The sun sets every day, the moon appears at night and my spring Birthday is always sunny. I think in that case we have time aligned with reality, although I’m sure the 24hr clock isn’t an exact science!
And so I ask the title of this post.. Is Time a friend or a foe?
Currently, I’m not too sure on that answer.. it’s summer, the butterflies are fluttering their wings beautifully, flowers are in full bloom and the world cup is on. Time is also edging towards a holiday in September that I’m very much looking forward to, and the days are longer meaning we get more from our after work hours.
But time also means (alas..) that I’m getting older, Winter is getting closer and a lot of the time, I find that I just don’t have time to do everything I want to do. Do I go to the gym or do I read a book? Do I go to the Park or do I blog? It’s difficult to find the true life balance, with time snapping at our feet.
‘So why all these questions about time?’ I hear you ask.
Well firstly, I find these kind of questions really interesting. I am definitely the kind of person that wants to know what you’d do if you had unlimited time in your life; what would you do differently? What would you keep the same? Where would you go? How would you live your life?
So as a result, when I saw a book entitled ‘How to Stop Time’ in the book shelf of the local Tesco, I was instantly drawn in. Not only is Matt Haig’s Blue book cover one of my favourites (self confessed blue book cover lover over here…) but the blurb on the back instantly made me think about this concept. Stopping Time.. how? In what way?
...For my UK Readers who were raised in the 90s, I’ll be honest, the next thing that sprung to mind was Bernard’s watch! Who didn’t want that watch when they were younger?!
HOW TO STOP TIME, BY MATT HAIG
‘How many lifetimes does it take to learn how to live?
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41 year old history teacher, but he’s been alive for centuries…..
The only thing he must not do is fall in love.’
I was gripped. And as I placed this beautiful looking book upon the conveyor belt, the older gentleman in front of me in the line, looked down and smiled, widely, before meeting my eyes and giggling (in a broad Hull accent)… ‘ow te stop tarm, aeh? Well if ye find ow(t), lemme nur.’
(Translation: How to stop time hmm? If you find out the secret, ensure to share the answer) 😉
Before proceeding to tell the check out assistant that I was going to find out the answer to all of our problems.
Let’s start with Tom. I feel in this novel that the character is slightly more important than the events that unfold in comparison to other books, so I am starting my review with an introduction to our character.
The novel is written in the first person, talking to us as readers and are following the thoughts, mind and life events of Tom Hazard. The first thing we come to know about our protagonist comes in our first sentence:
‘I am old’… ‘Old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old’.
Tom is over 400 years old, born 3rd March 1581 in France. His parents died a very long time ago – Tom however (clearly), did not.
Does he have the Philosopher’s Stone? A time travelling device? No to both. Tom has a medical condition, a rare but not unique condition, where he does not get old, or sick or die at a ‘normal’ age or time.
First of all, this sounds like a fascinating concept. As someone who (as I explained earlier) feels short of time, how fantastic would it be to have endless time – and the best bit, not age on the outside! No wrinkles, or anything sagging! Imagine!!
Tom is 400 yet passes for a 40 year old. Imagine the adventures, the wisdom, the lack of pressure to get things done before it is too late. A perfect work life balance, because life will always outweigh work and career ladders to race up before you retire at 65/68/90 (we’ll see what the UK government has in store by the time I’m old).
However to put this all into perspective, Tom was born in the 1500’s, a time when disease and an early death were almost a given. Where things of this unusual nature were often seen as sorcery or witchcraft, where women were burnt at the stake for unnatural phenomenons. Tom’s ‘condition’ puts both himself and his loved ones in sincere danger, why doesn’t he catch the latest disease? Tom cannot stay in one place too long, for it is recognised that he does not age. Tom ages at a ratio 1:15, meaning that for every 1 year we age, it takes him 15 to show the same amount of aging.
Tom’s life is therefore complex and difficult. He explains the issues surrounding being so old. How does the brain hold 400 years of memories, of love, guilt and loss? To what extent can you live your life if you know you must move on at some point or that the person or people that you love will die? How do you remain undiscovered? How can you keep alive your most treasured memories, many that were before the time of photographs and family heirlooms?
One primary theme of the novel is identity. Tom has to change identity all of the time to remain safe, and for his loved ones to be safe. We are taken through time, from 1500 to modern day, from France to Australia, where Tom must protect his loved ones and continually re-create his identity. How does he become close to others, how does he love but also protect, whilst all the time understanding and maintaining who he is?
The knowledge built from 400 years alive makes him one extraordinary History teacher, which is the profession that we find him in today. As he recounts the history of Shakespeare, he almost loses his care of whether the kids he teaches come to guess that things may not be as they seem. They of course will just be seen as teenagers with imaginations, or perhaps of having an overly enthusiastic and imaginative teacher, but he is aging to the point of not caring if he is found out, and more importantly what happens to him.
The second theme is secrecy, for whilst Tom’s condition is rare, he is not alone. With Tom’s growing lack of concern for concealing the truth, his fellow peers with the same condition (who have stumbled into one another playing different identities through the ages), become threatened. In the early days the threat was death, in modern age it is science, worldwide discovery and technology. What would happen if we discovered tomorrow that our local History teacher was in fact 400 years old and hung out with Shakespeare?
The third theme is personal relationships and love. How with every romantic relationship or friendship, Tom has to begin with a lie, for he cannot reveal his true identity to just anyone. How does the relationship look over time? How can Tom remain in public with his wife or partner, as she ages and he does not?
I found the themes of the book really deep and thought provoking. We all want more time, but in reality is that what we are looking for? People often talk about those with ‘too much time on their hands’. But how lonely is the journey if you have noone to consistently share it with? Noone to laugh with about memories as kids?
Even those with the same condition as Tom cannot be counted on as friends, all equally frightened of one another reaching the point of wanting to end their lives, and unveiling the truth behind the others with the same condition. Only one domino needs to fall.
Putting yourself into Tom’s shoes, it shows just how important trust, loyalty and companionship are throughout our lives. How important it is to be thankful for the time you have, and to maintain and be proud of your life and identity, no matter what that may be or who may or may not like it. For Tom, he cannot be his true self in public or stay in one place for too long for fear of being discovered, whereas we can do this every day without sincere threat.
He may have a lot of time to make decisions, but we at least can live our lives the way we choose from what we have available to us, and without putting others in danger.
The final word
This was definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, I think in fact it rivals ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ as my top read so far for 2018.
I just absolutely loved the themes in the book, and although it was a male character, I could understand and relate to his struggles (and no I’m not 400 years old..). I liked the fact that the whole book felt like a fun history lesson, but with a lot more depth and serious themes, the ups and downs of life set in extraordinary settings, explored in a way that we could understand in one way or another.
At some point in our lives, we have all chosen not to be our true selves in front of others, maybe for fear of rejection, bullying, or maybe we had to stand tall and confident to speak on stage or in a work situation when we are naturally anything but. The book made me feel like we should not take our true identities for granted, and that we should show these proudly, because ultimately, we can. Unlike Tom who has to keep changing his to remain alive.
My only negative is that I struggled with the character of Marion (I won’t explain who this is as do not want to spoil the read), but I felt that she was missing a lot of depth as such a key character, and the story with her involvement in it felt rushed toward the end.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4.5/5
I urge anybody with an interest in time, history or who enjoys philosophical debate or questions to pick up this book. I think you’ll enjoy the themes about life. It’ll help you reflect upon your own and how you spend your hours, on what and who with as we reach the mid point of the year.
It definitely deserves your time.
Where to Buy:
WASHED DOWN WITH:
I was on holiday when I read this book, but this month I have discovered a local tea shop in my City of Hull that I’m pretty much obsessed with and I really want to share with you because it’s a delight.
It’s a loose leaf tea treasure trove, selling all kinds of wonderful blends. My cupboard is getting increasingly more full, and I’m super excited to share more and more of my flavours to try. Even the hot yoga studio I’m a member of has their blends in their teapots, it’s a definite local favourite!!
APPLE CRUMBLE TEA!!! Did I actually just say that? Yes, Yes I did. The wonderful folk at The Tea Shop have only gone and brought one of my favourite hot desserts to life. It’s a perfectly balanced brew, with the exact caramel almondy flavour of a crumble, with an element of cinnamon and big and lovely pieces of Apple. It smells absolutely divine and is so fresh and fragrant.
Now I appreciate that not all of my readers are living in Hull, but if you are visiting, head over to
Quay 40, Princes Quay Shopping Centre, Hull
Where you can pick up and smell each tea in jars (honestly the picking of the tea is my favourite part!!) before making your selection from 30g up to 200g of tea.
Alternatively, log onto http://www.teashophull.co.uk to buy online.
PAPYRUS AND PEPPERMINT READERS
So I’m always super excited to see when my readers have picked out the books from my reviews to read for themselves. This month’s feature Reader is Rachael @rachwalk21
Rachael is fellow book lover and follower of my page @veryprettylittlethings, She recently purchased ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ following my recent review, and loved it!
Have you purchased one of the reviewed reads?
For your chance to be featured on next month’s blog, tag me in your posts (@veryprettylittlethings) or use hashtag #papyrusandpeppermintblog
Until next time readers, enjoy your hot days and long summer nights. Next month, I’ll begin telling you about my favourite bookish food and tea places to explore (of which there are many..)!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review, get involved in the discussion below or contact me on IG or email.
Keep reading, learning and exploring the world of literature, and remain fascinated by the world around you.