Matt Haig’s writing style seems intimately personal, like he is telling you his most carefully hidden secrets. He mentions events that are well known but gives them a face, one that draws you into his passion or pain. He shows a deep believe in humanity despite its many foibles and illustrates how time can be merely a cycle unless someone decides to step outside of the norm.
This is a story that runs on two parallel lines, one being present day London and the other coving many hundreds of years, looking at life experiences and the human condition as observed by a character who, through a very rare condition, ages incredibly slowly, He’s not immortal but very much alone, as he lives a 1:15 year timespan.
Tom Hazard has had enough. He is searching for meaning and a point to his present-day life. He has an insight into history as he has lived much of it and, as such, him being a history teacher gives the storyline an added sense of reality. Whilst Tom often feels alone, he is a part of a secret organisation, set up to protect people with his condition and move them on periodically, with new identities, back stories and to differing parts of the world so that they fit in relatively easily despite their lack of visual aging. The leader of the organisation is Hendrich a very old man who will organise, if necessary, removal of any threats that may expose members of ‘The Albatross Society’. The only things he requires in payment for his support comes in the way of a warning to all members, ‘Never Fall in Love’ and the willingness to help protect other members when called upon to do so.
Tom unfortunately was unable to adhere to the warning and has paid the price. He is now travelling time in search of his daughter, who has the same condition. He had loved her mother and watched her die from plague, a love that taints his present life and jangles at his nerves as he revisits London and experiences the differences between the two, time streams. The reader is shown incidences that have a strong historical reference as experienced by the fictional characters, leaving the reader attached to the consequences and feeling for the struggles and emotional baggage Tom takes from his part in them.
The conclusion of the book is both touching and prophetic. It, like the rest of this story, poses the question that we all ask ourselves, what if … and leaves the reader with a sense of purpose and meaning. This is not a read-once-and-forget book, it is a re-read and share with all the people you know book. It is a book of revelations and surprises, a book of emotions and introspection.
It is no wonder it has been snapped up to be made into a feature film.
Reviewed by Leanne Caune
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Allen & Unwin
Release Date: August, 2017
RRP: $39.99 Hardcover