Live for today

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

This is a beautiful and sad book.

I suspect it will speak to people in different ways. For some it will simply be one of the loveliest but saddest books they will ever read. I’m in that category. But for some people it will really challenge and change their perceptions, perhaps speak to them in a way nothing else will.

It’s the story of Tom, for whom time stops.  Or perhaps better said he ages so slowly he is centuries old despite his youthful appearance.

Given that time has stopped for him, what will Tom do with his life?  Will he aspire to greatness? Or will he allow fear to overcome him?  If you outlive everyone you ever meet can you form relationships?  With a seemingly endless future should you focus on the unknown ahead, the reality of your past or live for the moment?  And how do you even do that?

“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love”.

Imagine going through life avoiding falling in love. Of course, many people never feel that joy but knowing it’s impossible and never being lucky enough to experience it are very different.

Tom asks us the question – is it love that gives our lives meaning?  Or by living for now can we fall in love?

“A problem with living in the twenty-first century….. we are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have only been to ten other countries. To feel old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo shopped and filtered”.

Tom knew Shakespeare, Captain Cook and Scott Fitzgerald.  He looks backward, believing that everything good is behind him.  And yet it’s a book about our own time.  A time in which despots appeal to people who feel threatened, where likes on an FB post are worth gold and celebrity images dictate our self esteem.

The author explores the role that putting down roots and forming real connections plays in your identity and mental health resilience.  What did his lack of connections post Rose and Marion say about Tom?  Should he risk it all again?

So, we come to the ultimate question.  What would you do with such a long life?  Would the fear of scientific exploration keep you in hiding?  Or would you throw caution to the wind to live your best life?

This book is so interesting, compelling and hugely relevant for today.  It’s simply beautiful.

Another great choice for your bookclub.

Time and childhood

The Child in Time Ian McEwan

At first glance from the blurb I expected a Madeleine McCann type story.  So, I started it with some trepidation, but it was a bookclub book so it had to be done.

Whilst, Kate the missing child dominates, I was surprised how little the story was actually about her.  I came to see what happened to Kate as the starting point to look at the concept of being trapped in time.

I loved the exploration of time and what it means, especially how the author cleverly speeded up time and then slowed it down.  It totally showcased the genius of the writing.

McEwan uses various ways to play with this concept of time. There’s the role of the commitee in giving structure to Stephen’s time – time was used to show that the book had already been written (past), whilst the committe sat (present) and worked towards their report (future). Brilliant!

Perhaps most impressively McEwan used his style of writing to demonstrate his theme, with the details about the committee being dull and bringing on a feeling of lethargy. Yet other parts were fast paced and absorbing.

The other theme inherent in the title is ‘child’ or childhood.  Obviously for Stephen this began with the missing Kate and then Julie’s decision not to share her pregnancy, so he had no time to prepare. The references to Stephen’s own childhood via his ride in the train engine as if he needed this memory of his own childhood before he moved on.

The character most impacted here was Charles. His revision back to childhood and Thelma’s role in this. Did this refect her experience as never having had a child? Was this their attraction?

The book is dystopian in nature which allowed for political commentary of sorts, including the gender neutral PM, most likely a representation of the Iron Lady.  This style allowed the almost magical story around Stephen and his parents’ memories, how he could access a memory from before he was born.  Memories and how we choose what to remember is another theme.

For bookclubs the quality and diversity of themes make it an absolute winner. I’m not sure I loved it, but I found it intriguing and definitely worthwhile with lots to talk about.

I read this in November but am only just catching up on review. I ran out of time (!).