Review by Emily Fuller
Tom Hazard may seem like your average 41 year-old man who lives a mundane life of history teaching in London. But he isn’t. He is a man who has lived through history for over 600 years. He is a man who has performed alongside William Shakespeare in his very own Globe Theatre. He once embarked on a journey exploring the high seas with Captain Cook. He has even shared a cocktail or two with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald against the glamourous backdrop of Paris. Thanks to his rare condition, Anageria, Tom has lived hundreds of different, and mostly extraordinary lives. But now, exhaustion has settled into his bones, and he simply craves to live the most ordinary life possible. This may be easier said than done though, as Tom desperately attempts to resist the temptation of combating his loneliness with pursuing affection and care from another being.
Explaining and categorising the content of this novel is so difficult, it’s a time travel tale for the ages, but isn’t quite science fiction of fantasy. You can really see Matt Haig’s incredible gift for storytelling as he superimposes a ridiculously implausible concept into a realistic world and human experience in which we can identify with. I may be biased considering he is one of my most-adored authors, but Haig is an absolutely rare treasure. His work is a testament to his huge heart, creativity, and his expansive mind. His writing radiates an unusual kind of emotional awareness – deeply rooted at the heart of his prose is a sense of compassion and care for humanity and the broader world surrounding us – despite our flaws and our occasional ignorance.
So back to the book itself – yes, on the surface level it is a novel of time-travel and filled with history. But it is so much more than that. It’s about the inevitability of change throughout our lives and throughout history. It’s about losing yourself within the deep dark void of loneliness and finding yourself again through means of love, friendship and human connection. It’s about how we can find happiness within ourselves if we free our minds from the constraint of time, and just live in the present. Not only did I really indulge in the historical quirks of the novel (ie. geeking out about the inclusion of Shakespearean London), but what also made me fall in love with this novel was it’s philosophical observations of the human condition. I will add this as a little disclaimer: it is quite a slow plot-developer, so this may not be a read I would recommend for light entertainment. However, if you are interested in reading something that provokes self-reflection and a cultivation of emotional awareness for humanity, then this is absolutely the book for you.