Our November book club pick was by Julia! She’s totally in love with all of Matt Haig’s books so it’s not a surprise that she chose his latest book. Check out his Goodreads page to sneak a peek at his previous novels.
Tom Hazard is just an average person in every way except one: he lives through time in slow motion.
One year to a normal person, can be half a century to him. He has lived through the greatest moments of history: from Shakespeare, to the roaring twenties and straight through two great world wars. He’s survived it all by following one simple rule:
Never fall in love.
This book is a really great read with a unique plot and writing style. There were several things in this book that I feel were done really well:
1. First Person Perspective – this is something that’s very hard to do right, but I found it worked really well considering our main character, Tom. With a lot of the focus being on his emotions and his memories, using first person really helped me connect with him. We not only learned about his past, we learned about it exactly how he remembers it.
2. History – I think when it comes to time travel or living forever, there’s a certain predictability that can come with it. For example, knowing famous people from the past (Shakespeare, Michelangelo, maybe even some kings and queens). This book does this to an extent but it avoids falling into the trap of ‘I knew every single famous person intimately’. Tom meets people that impact his life, such as Shakespeare, but there are others he meets just for an instance (Fitzgerald) and then, even more others he only saw once, from a distance (Josephine Baker). This adds for some realism in the story, while still ‘setting the scene’ for us.
3. Characters – every person in this book has a unique personality, different from others. I especially liked the characterization of Shakespeare – the brief description of how he was onstage versus off it. I also liked Omai, he was a really amazing secondary character and honestly I’d probably read a book about him.
I gave this book a 3/5 because although there’s nothing wrong with the book per se, to me there wasn’t anything particularly special about it. It almost felt like every chapter, by itself, interested me but the story as a whole didn’t have a lot of appeal. The ending also felt a little rushed, possibly because we only get to witness events through Tom’s eyes, so we can’t see the development of it all. I think it would have really added to the story if Haig had emphasized Heindrich’s paranoia more as the story continued, which would have created a lot more tension in the present day story of Tom and the Albatross Society. You can sort of tell it’s building up but in my opinion it was still a bit too subtle.
As you may or may not know, I’m a huuuuge fan of Matt Haig ever since I read The Humans so when it was my pick again I knew I had to get everyone to read his newest book!
Just as I expected, I loved the writing. Haig’s prose flows and is the right amount of satire and poetry. I think that’s what makes his books so quick to read because everything flows nicely together. Although the book jumps around from different time periods, the narration from Tom’s point of view stayed the same, you always know it’s Tom. Like Alia mentioned, his feelings and emotions come across really well.
I loved Rose and Omai! They were really strong and independent characters who were super interesting. I want to read more about them! Also, I want to know more about the Albatross Society and Heinrich’s super mad world syndrome. The famous people Tom meets along the way are pretty fun too. I didn’t even realise that including iconic names would be a thing in the book (but, duh!) so it was a nice surprise. I loved the Fitzgerald and Shakespeare stories.
My main issue with this novel, other than Camille was kinda blasé, was that the end felt a bit rushed. I couldn’t feel shocked or upset about some of the events because I had no attachment to what was happening. Aside from that, I unsurprisingly found a lot of great quotes from this novel. I’d also give this a 3 out of 5 stars. I’m excited to watch the movie once it comes out especially because it features my favy, Benedict Cumberbatch.
- What was your favourite Tom timeline?
- Who was your favourite famous person anecdote?
- What countries would you live in if you were an alba?
- Who was your favourite character? Why?
- What quote was memorable for you?
Our next read is: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie