4 / 5 Stars
A fun, imaginative concept, but without quite enough depth.
One thing I will say about Matt Haig - he's exceptionally good at writing accessible, simply-put prose, minus the flowery descriptions - and he gets his point across in a deft, relateable manner.
Which is fortunate in this case, as the plot is fairly weighty and complex.
Our protagonist, who goes by many names (let's call him Tom for now), is born with a genetic condition that means he ages very slowly. 500 years later, he's still kicking around in the UK, but only looks in his 40s. He's part of a group called the Albatross Club - a secret society full of people like him, and he's given the life he wants in exchange for 'completing missions' - i.e. silencing those who might threaten to expose their secrets.
Except Tom is done with all of it. He missed the love of his life, Rose, who died back in the Tudor times. He's desperate to find his daughter, who has the same condition as him. And he just wants to be 'normal', rather than moving on every eight years because people are starting to become suspicious.
I really liked the concept of this book. It's a take on the vampire myth, minus the blood-sucking, and the whole set-up was very clever. Haig's easy-to-understand style of writing made it a doddle to get engaged with the story and it made for an entertaining read.
My one criticism would be that it lacked a level of emotional depth. While I felt Tom's longing for his dead wife, I didn't really get a sense of the continual loneliness and pain of having to live alone for centuries - nor the emotional impact. After all, he's a human being (albeit an old one) and presumably would have the same emotional response to such situations? Or was he just hardened to it? Again, that didn't feel quite right, because in other aspects, he was quite vulnerable.
This did jar with me throughout, unfortunately. However, I did enjoy the book and as with all his books, I liked the creative concept behind it - it's always nice to see an author go 'all out there' with a crazy idea and mould it into something readable.