Tom Hazard starts a new career as a history teacher in London. He teaches about Shakespeare as if he has known the man himself. And he did know Shakespeare. Tom was born in the 16th century and suffers from a strange disease that makes him age slowly. One day, he discovers that he isn’t the only one with this condition. Tom becomes part of a secret society where they call themselves Alba’s. The society arranges a new life for you every 8 years and in return you help them find and recruit more Alba’s. To live long may seem a wonderful dream but it can be hurtful too, especially when love is involved.
This was my first book of Matt Haig and I deliberately picked this one as the focus is less on sci-fi and it has some historical elements. The book contains short chapters switching between Tom’s past lives and his current one as a teacher in London. We travel to Elizabethan London, James Cook’s discovery of Australia, New York, Paris… Sometimes it’s a bit confusing in which life we are.
We learn about Tom’s first love Rose and how his disease forced him to part from her. Tom’s undying love (you can take that literally if you want) for Rose is a central topic during the whole story. It becomes an obsession and for me it was a bit too much.
We also get an insight in the secret Alba society. How they found Tom, what the rules are and how they try to hide from the rest of the world. For me, the whole society thing wasn’t the most interesting part of the novel. Tom doesn’t ask questions and just goes along with whatever they tell him. I didn’t find it very convincing.
What I did like were Tom’s ‘accidentally’ encounters with famous figures such as Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald. You’re a history nerd, or not :D. I also liked Haig’s writing style, which becomes very philosophical at times. The concept of ‘time’ is a key element throughout the story.
So yes, I truly understand why people love this book. It’s well-written with some unique storylines, but for me there were too many loose ends to be blown away.