On Saturday I met with an old friend – She has always been my sounding board for writing stuff, read countless cringy stories as a teenager and generally cheerleaded me through to the point where I was confident enough to start blogging about books. She gave me a lot of the gumption to start writing about my own opinions on a public forum and for that I would love to thank her profusely.
I was however greatly amused when she presented me with a bag of books at the pub on Saturday night and told me that she thought I needed to move away from historical fiction – broaden my horizons so to speak. She then proceeded to present this book as a suitable alternative – which is set mostly in the past. The logic may be flawed, but the book choice was not at all – it was a lovely read.
This story follows Tom Hazard, a 431 year old gentleman with a condition called ‘anageria’ which means that he has only physically aged to 41. He has lived countless lives in that time, but this story picks up in 2012 where he is posing as a history teacher in London, walking the same streets he had previously walked in that lifetime that he cannot forget. There he relives those events which brought him to his current-day dilemma of what he is living for – a question which apparently is not made clearer with the wisdom of ages.
Tom is a strangely appealing charecter considering his jaded view of people, events and generally everything around him, flavoured by more than 400 years of watching it all go wrong. He appears to have very little interest in the present, or indeed the future, and finds himself regularly pulled back to significant parts of his past throughout the story, while he struggles with the question of what life has left for him.
His real driving force throughout the book is the search for Marion, and his growing interest in Camille – the french teacher. Tom finds himself drawn inexplicably and dangerously closer to a relationship which he knows he cannot have, and forced forwards to a life which he cannot face – one without love.
Tom is a member of the ‘Albatross Society’, run by the questionable character ‘Hendrich’ who kicks off the book with the first rule of being an ‘Alba’ – “The first rule is that you don’t fall in love. There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.”
And that really is the crux of the book, the bit that kept me hooked, the bit that pulled me forwards page by page. It’s the running theme, the dilemma and the appeal all in one – how can you live without love?
I had begun the book within an hour of returning from the pub that evening, drawn in by the blurb and the well written first few pages – it is a lovely lazy read which jumps from past to present with a handful of cameos from well known names and memorable spots in history to add a sprinkle of interest to Toms ever-developing character. It suited my needs at the time very well as I was visiting friends and found that I could easily dip in and out due to the ever-changing nature of the storytelling, with several short sections set in different times and places. It was a very pleasant story which I would happily recommend.
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