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The Thief of Time

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John Boyne has become internationally known for his acclaimed novels Crippen and the bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Now, for the first time in the United States, comes the book that started the career of the author that the Irish Examiner calls "one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers." It is 1758 and Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris a John Boyne has become internationally known for his acclaimed novels Crippen and the bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Now, for the first time in the United States, comes the book that started the career of the author that the Irish Examiner calls "one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers." It is 1758 and Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris after witnessing the murder of his mother and his stepfather's execution. Matthieu's life is characterized by one extraordinary fact: before the eighteenth century ends, he discovers that his body has stopped ageing. At the end of the twentieth century and the ripe old age of 256 he is suddenly forced to answer an uncomfortable question: what is the worth of immortality without love? In this carefully crafted novel, John Boyne juxtaposes history and the buzz of the modern world, weaving together portraits of 1920s Hollywood, the Great Exhibition of 1851, the French Revolution, the Wall Street Crash, and other landmark events into one man's story of murder, love, and redemption.


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John Boyne has become internationally known for his acclaimed novels Crippen and the bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Now, for the first time in the United States, comes the book that started the career of the author that the Irish Examiner calls "one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers." It is 1758 and Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris a John Boyne has become internationally known for his acclaimed novels Crippen and the bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Now, for the first time in the United States, comes the book that started the career of the author that the Irish Examiner calls "one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers." It is 1758 and Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris after witnessing the murder of his mother and his stepfather's execution. Matthieu's life is characterized by one extraordinary fact: before the eighteenth century ends, he discovers that his body has stopped ageing. At the end of the twentieth century and the ripe old age of 256 he is suddenly forced to answer an uncomfortable question: what is the worth of immortality without love? In this carefully crafted novel, John Boyne juxtaposes history and the buzz of the modern world, weaving together portraits of 1920s Hollywood, the Great Exhibition of 1851, the French Revolution, the Wall Street Crash, and other landmark events into one man's story of murder, love, and redemption.

30 review for The Thief of Time

  1. 4 out of 5

    Isa

    Boyne is a storyteller , and a really good one!I really enjoyed reading this story because of the message it conveyed, life should be lived to the fullest and most importantly there are always lessons to be learned, always! History has the tendency to repeat itself until one is able to see, to fully grasp what life is and what living really means....

  2. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This book could have been great as the premise was full of potential. Matthieu Zela is born in Paris in 1743 and when he reaches the age of around fifty years old, he realises that he has stopped aging. His story is told in flashbacks of his adventures over the centuries, interspersed with his present day life in the year 1999. Over the course of his 256 years Matthieu has first hand experience of some pivotal moments in history - the French Revolution, the Wall Street crash, McCarthyism. He fli This book could have been great as the premise was full of potential. Matthieu Zela is born in Paris in 1743 and when he reaches the age of around fifty years old, he realises that he has stopped aging. His story is told in flashbacks of his adventures over the centuries, interspersed with his present day life in the year 1999. Over the course of his 256 years Matthieu has first hand experience of some pivotal moments in history - the French Revolution, the Wall Street crash, McCarthyism. He flitters from Europe to America, marrying many times but never fathering any children. His only relations accompanying him on this journey are a series of nephews, all called variations of the name 'Thomas', who all die at young ages in sordid ways after first fathering another son. The fate of the Thomases seems to hold the key to Matthieu's fate. This could have been a great story, but unfortunately it's not. None of the characters, including Matthieu, are well drawn or even very likeable. Matthieu's life is not even that interesting, and it should have been. All in all, this was a disappointment. I'm not even sure why I persevered to the end.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rich Stoehr

    "And I am not one of these long-living fictional characters who prays for death as a release from the captivity of eternal life; not for me the endless whining and wailing of the undead." With these words, written on the first few pages of his novel "The Thief of Time," John Boyne pretty much sold me on the central idea of the book: a man who is over 250 years old but looks like a man in his late 40's or early 50's, and who has looked essentially the same for about 200 years. Matthieu Zela, the lo "And I am not one of these long-living fictional characters who prays for death as a release from the captivity of eternal life; not for me the endless whining and wailing of the undead." With these words, written on the first few pages of his novel "The Thief of Time," John Boyne pretty much sold me on the central idea of the book: a man who is over 250 years old but looks like a man in his late 40's or early 50's, and who has looked essentially the same for about 200 years. Matthieu Zela, the long-lived main character, has lived a long time and seen much change in his life. I found the perspective he had on his apparent immortality quite refreshing -- he does not question it and he does not curse it. He simply accepts it as part of his life and lives...really lives. In his time he experiences the French Revolution, the Great Exhibition, the Great Depression, the rise of Hollywood, war, marriage, love, and death. So much death, all around him...but not for him. The strength of the book comes from its ability to capture uniquely all the different time periods experienced and convince us that they are all seen through the eyes of this one singular character. Bouncing back and forth to different places in the past to modern day and back to the past again, Boyne tells several stories in parallel, and we slowly come to learn about the central events in Matthieu's life that changed him most dramatically, including the loss of the first true love he would ever know. Each thread of story is skillfully handled, coming together at last in a satisfying ending that explains only just enough, and still leaves much up to the imagination of the reader. "The Thief of Time" is ambitious in its way, depending on the fact that the reader will be interested enough in the story to not question too much the whys and wherefores of it -- that they, as Matthieu himself does, will simply accept it as presented and enjoy it for what it is...an entertaining tale of a life, skillfully told. If there is a lesson to be learned from this book, it is that not everything has to be fully understood to be appreciated. Some experiences are enough in themselves. This book is one of them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Synnin

    I was really attracted by the title and description, so I grabbed a book expecting some thrilling epic reading. But i was completely disappointed: a fantastic idea turned into some boring so-called plot, jumping from one so-called plot line to another, omitting the details and leaving a total mess in the mind. Honestly I never made it to the end, I just got tired of not understanding what on earth the book was about and what the author was going to tell the readers with this piece of literature. I was really attracted by the title and description, so I grabbed a book expecting some thrilling epic reading. But i was completely disappointed: a fantastic idea turned into some boring so-called plot, jumping from one so-called plot line to another, omitting the details and leaving a total mess in the mind. Honestly I never made it to the end, I just got tired of not understanding what on earth the book was about and what the author was going to tell the readers with this piece of literature. I wouldn't call it junk, others might enjoy the quirky style, not me, sorry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katie {awonderfulbook}

    The premise of this book is so interesting: a man who stops ageing and lives through some of the most interesting and turbulent times of the modern era. And the parts where Matthieu encountered famous historical figures or took part in important historical moments were the most interesting aspect of this book for me. I feel like Boyne was interested most of all in the historical events and figures, and wanted to tell a story about someone who could be involved in all that history, but the other t The premise of this book is so interesting: a man who stops ageing and lives through some of the most interesting and turbulent times of the modern era. And the parts where Matthieu encountered famous historical figures or took part in important historical moments were the most interesting aspect of this book for me. I feel like Boyne was interested most of all in the historical events and figures, and wanted to tell a story about someone who could be involved in all that history, but the other threads of the story, Matthieu's early life and his present-day life were far less interesting to me. I didn't really care about his feelings for Dominique, and I don't think her character was developed well enough to make the storyline involving her work properly. The thread involving his brother and his descendants needed more development too. We were told that their short lives enabled Matthieu's longevity, but I wanted to know how. I also felt like there should have been more difficulty in the fact that Matthieu lived so long. All of his wives conveniently died or were divorced before his lack of ageing became an issue. I'm not sure why he wasn't more careful about concealing his lack of ageing. Perhaps the primitive technology accounts for it, but he was involved in such important history that photographs must have captured his likeness at some point. I think if you're going to have a character who doesn't age, they should be taking some kinds of precautions so that they're not found out. The fact that Matthieu didn't wasn't believable to me. I liked the history Matthieu was involved in, but the other strands of the story weren't that interesting to me. Boyne must have done a lot of research for the historical aspects, which make those stand out, but I didn't enjoy this as much as I was hoping to.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Richbern

    The problem with going back and reading a favorite author's earlier works is that it's inevitably disappointing. You can see the promise, just not the fulfillment of it. This is a nicely written book about a 250 year old man who was born in 18th century france. It has a very Forrest Gump-ian dynamic where he's involved in many of history's biggest events, and interacts with everyone from Robespierre to Charlie Chaplin. A stronger editor could have shaped the narrative better--instead it's a seri The problem with going back and reading a favorite author's earlier works is that it's inevitably disappointing. You can see the promise, just not the fulfillment of it. This is a nicely written book about a 250 year old man who was born in 18th century france. It has a very Forrest Gump-ian dynamic where he's involved in many of history's biggest events, and interacts with everyone from Robespierre to Charlie Chaplin. A stronger editor could have shaped the narrative better--instead it's a series of stories traipsing across time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    John Boyne is definitely a born story teller and I greatly enjoyed this novel in which he takes the reader on an interesting journey through history.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    I don't even know where to start... This was probably the most boring book I have ever read. It sounded like a really great concept and then just ended up being a tremendously disappointing tale of a man who has lived for a long time seeing lots of things, people die and time goes on. You never really learn why his time stops, or why the Tomas's kept dying early, it was just how it was :( Only reason I finished was because I thought surely something exciting would happen... nope. Also the book c I don't even know where to start... This was probably the most boring book I have ever read. It sounded like a really great concept and then just ended up being a tremendously disappointing tale of a man who has lived for a long time seeing lots of things, people die and time goes on. You never really learn why his time stops, or why the Tomas's kept dying early, it was just how it was :( Only reason I finished was because I thought surely something exciting would happen... nope. Also the book cost me $9 so had to get my moneys worth :/

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie Friendship

    An excellent read... Boyne's first novel and one that is definitely worth taking a look at... Each chapter is like a mini history lesson in itself! An excellent read... Boyne's first novel and one that is definitely worth taking a look at... Each chapter is like a mini history lesson in itself!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fran Blake

    The House of Special Purpose & The Boy in the Striped Pajamas were both really good books. This one didn't do it for me. The House of Special Purpose & The Boy in the Striped Pajamas were both really good books. This one didn't do it for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cathal Kenneally

    Entertaining Having read his books before, I was looking forward to reading this. I love the way he mixes stories from different time epochs and blends them. At first glance they don't seem to make sense but as the story unfolds gradually it does make for a great read Entertaining Having read his books before, I was looking forward to reading this. I love the way he mixes stories from different time epochs and blends them. At first glance they don't seem to make sense but as the story unfolds gradually it does make for a great read

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily Morgan

    In the end I found this book to be a big disappointment especially given how much I enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pajamas I was enjoying the story at first, and I thought the premise had a lot of potential. Cons: I found the ending to be predictable. But most of all it was the dodgy historical contexts that really killed enjoyment of the story for me. If it had been just one mistake, then I could have looked past it, even though the book relies totally on history for its plot. But there was far m In the end I found this book to be a big disappointment especially given how much I enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pajamas I was enjoying the story at first, and I thought the premise had a lot of potential. Cons: I found the ending to be predictable. But most of all it was the dodgy historical contexts that really killed enjoyment of the story for me. If it had been just one mistake, then I could have looked past it, even though the book relies totally on history for its plot. But there was far more than one mistake. In one set of three pages alone, I encountered three separate historical inaccuracies and I'm not talking obscure things here. I am interested in history but I would certainly not call myself a history fact-know-it-all. Four things in swift succession: telegrams and money wires in the eighteenth century. The telegram was not invented until the nineteenth. Two other eighteenth century inventions or first use in the eighteenth century: plaster casts and gas lighting. Both apparently available in 1760, according to this book. And the use of "grasshopper" as a friendly moniker suggesting apprentice - also used in 1760 in the book, but not actually used until the 1960s in kung fu movies. I did double check all of these. The thing is, none of them are vital to the plot. But they were all used to flesh out the scene, to bring colour to the story and background. They only succeeded in jarring me out of my belief in the story and forcing me back into the real world with a, "hang on, what?" Not what you want in a good fiction, I believe.

  13. 4 out of 5

    zllvs

    "On the other hand, I could have misjudged her. She could love him. Simple as that. She could know the sickening, aching pain that goes with love. She could know how it feels to be aware of someone's presence in a building, even when you're not together; she could know how it feels to be hurt and damaged and crucified by someone and still be unable to shake them from your head, no matter how hard you try, no matter how many years you are apart; she could know that, even years later, all it would "On the other hand, I could have misjudged her. She could love him. Simple as that. She could know the sickening, aching pain that goes with love. She could know how it feels to be aware of someone's presence in a building, even when you're not together; she could know how it feels to be hurt and damaged and crucified by someone and still be unable to shake them from your head, no matter how hard you try, no matter how many years you are apart; she could know that, even years later, all it would take would be one phone call and you would go to them, drop everything, desert everyone, put the world on hold. She could feel those things for Tommy and I could be denying her that right." THE THIEF OF TIME by John Boyne. I love the story, the way it is written, very addictive and multicolorist. I could see an adventure Tv series right there. But the last page broke it all. After all, I must respect the author's decission although the story has a great potential to become a book series. I never got tired of reading this book and... I wanted more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    James Fitzgerald

    This John Boyne novel was a huge disappointment, I have read six Boyne novels and enjoyed them immensely all have been 4 & 5 star ratings The Heart invisible Furies I would give this book a 6 star rating Crippen 5, the Absolutist 5, A history of loneliness 5, Next of Kin 5, A boy in the striped pajamas4 star. The book premise is Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris with his half brother Tom when he meets the love of his life Dominique the year is 1758 the adventure begins. I believe this part of the b This John Boyne novel was a huge disappointment, I have read six Boyne novels and enjoyed them immensely all have been 4 & 5 star ratings The Heart invisible Furies I would give this book a 6 star rating Crippen 5, the Absolutist 5, A history of loneliness 5, Next of Kin 5, A boy in the striped pajamas4 star. The book premise is Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris with his half brother Tom when he meets the love of his life Dominique the year is 1758 the adventure begins. I believe this part of the book was the most interesting. Unfortunately we have to muddle through 256 years of Matthieu life to find out what happens between him and Dominique. Matthieu does not age and lives beyond 256 years parts of the book were interesting the time during the French Revolution, the Wall street crash, the birth of Hollywood but there wasn't a lot of depth or character development during the other parts of the 256 years. It is a long book and I struggled to finish it. My recommendation read the other John Boyne's books skip this one I wish I had.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nicki

    I really wanted to like this book as the premise is so interesting, but the story failed to deliver. It felt like a series of detached observations about individual incidents rather than a really story. There's not much of a plot and nothing over much happens. The basic idea is great, but the characters, especially the main one, Mathieu, are quite unappealing. I kept reading purely because I was hoping it would spring to life, but it never did. I really wanted to like this book as the premise is so interesting, but the story failed to deliver. It felt like a series of detached observations about individual incidents rather than a really story. There's not much of a plot and nothing over much happens. The basic idea is great, but the characters, especially the main one, Mathieu, are quite unappealing. I kept reading purely because I was hoping it would spring to life, but it never did.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carol Scheherazade

    So. How many books have I read in my life? Thousands. How many authors have I said are one of my favorites? A few. Well Mr John Boyne has cemented himself as number 1. His books have all captured me, even the ones not rated so high on Goodreads! I’ve loved ALL his books , including this one. He’s def changed as an author but each book has something in it that totally enthralled me. Including this one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Senne Voorspoels

    I eat newborn babies :)))

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Another thought provoking read from author John Boyne featuring the 256 year old Matthieu Zela. Zela was born in Paris in 1743 and although he has lived for 256 years for some reason he stopped aging when he reached middle age. The story jumps around in time, each era telling of Matthieu’s life in various different stages and circumstances. Throughout his long life Zela has married several times but has never had children and only had nephews to care for, each of the nephews have had a son and d Another thought provoking read from author John Boyne featuring the 256 year old Matthieu Zela. Zela was born in Paris in 1743 and although he has lived for 256 years for some reason he stopped aging when he reached middle age. The story jumps around in time, each era telling of Matthieu’s life in various different stages and circumstances. Throughout his long life Zela has married several times but has never had children and only had nephews to care for, each of the nephews have had a son and died shortly after while still in their 20’s. This is a sad chain of coincidences that Zela is eager to break, too late for the previous generations, but a cycle that needs to stop. Zela’s stepfather was executed after he murdered Matthieu’s mother and the 15 year old Zela decided to flee to England with his young brother Tomas. The brothers meet up with an older girl named Dominique and form a lasting friendship and pass off as brothers and sister. His life story tells of his time during the French Revolution, Hollywood and their are encounters with a few famous historical figures. Although the book covered a lot of different time frames and characters I still found it easy to follow and didn’t get confused when jumping backwards and forwards. It is obvious from reading other reviewers that they are split between loving the novel and hating it, it is a long read and I can see that some people might find it too slow. I agree that it is not the best John Boyne novel but is still a decent read. I enjoyed the book and I always like reading John Boyne’s novels but I fully understand how some other reviewers felt let down by the book. Such a great premise and I agree a lot more could have been made of it but for me it was still an entertaining read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lou

    Matthieu, born at the end of the 18th century, finds at the age of fifty- odd that he has stopped aging. As each episode of his life ends, he moves around the World and starts another, moving through times of war and famous events and coming across the rich and infamous from the past. With similar themes to his recent The Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, that there is little new under the sun, this is a good story well told. A Thief if Time appears to be John Boyne’s first novel, and if so, it’s Matthieu, born at the end of the 18th century, finds at the age of fifty- odd that he has stopped aging. As each episode of his life ends, he moves around the World and starts another, moving through times of war and famous events and coming across the rich and infamous from the past. With similar themes to his recent The Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, that there is little new under the sun, this is a good story well told. A Thief if Time appears to be John Boyne’s first novel, and if so, it’s an extraordinary debut by a natural story teller even if the strong male characters dominate at the expense of his females, who are mostly weak or conniving. It feels a little long, by the time we get to the Unamerican Affairs and the workings of the television station it drags a little.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I loved the concept of the book and how it conveyed the message of history repeating itself until people try to understand and listen. However, I think that often the book jumped around to much and was sometimes quite difficult to keep up with.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    While not as good as his most recent, I liked this. I liked the structure especially.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shaz

    I loved this novel! As Boyne's first adult novel, it was very impressive. I loved this novel! As Boyne's first adult novel, it was very impressive.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    This was a surprisingly good read, almost a series of short stories with an interweaving of two bookend longer stories that tied the whole thing together. I enjoyed the premise, the writing and the stories.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    This book was an interesting exploration of the life of a man who stopped aging around his 50s and his interactions (lots of them) with people that he encounters throughout his immense lifespan. Most important is his relationship with his brother's descendants, who seem to fall into the same self-destructive habits and patterns as their fathers. Because of Mr. Zela's (Matthieu, please) condition, he has experienced many things and Boyne gives us a tour of England in the late 1700s, the French Re This book was an interesting exploration of the life of a man who stopped aging around his 50s and his interactions (lots of them) with people that he encounters throughout his immense lifespan. Most important is his relationship with his brother's descendants, who seem to fall into the same self-destructive habits and patterns as their fathers. Because of Mr. Zela's (Matthieu, please) condition, he has experienced many things and Boyne gives us a tour of England in the late 1700s, the French Revolution, the early days of Hollywood, Black Friday before the Great Depression, and even the modern television business. This book is mildly sci-fi, if only for it's main conceit of a man who doesn't age. It also gave me a little bit of the feeling of the movie Groundhog's Day, as history repeated itself various times, and Matthieu tried to figure out how to best live his life. The story is not told in a linear fashion, and we learn Matthieu's earliest story the slowest, with bits and pieces of it coming between his experiences at momentous times in history. The resolution of the early story was excellent, and came as a surprise. The book also has a great ending. My only real complaint is that it seemed like it took a long time to get through this book. That, however, is also likely due to the fact that I have been studying my brains out and have only had a little time for leisure reading. Rating: R, for strong language (f-words), some violence, and some sexuality.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robert Palmer

    WOW! If I had only one word to describe this book it would be WOW !Matthiew Zeia is born in Paris in 1743 and by 1758 after his Mother has been murdered by his Stepfather he along with his half Brother Thomas he flees Paris. On the boat to England he meets Dominique ( 4 or 5 years his senior ) they stay together in England for the next few years. By the time Matthiew is in his mid 50s he stops aging, and in 1999 he is the major stockholder in a satellite broadcasting station and his Great-nephew WOW! If I had only one word to describe this book it would be WOW !Matthiew Zeia is born in Paris in 1743 and by 1758 after his Mother has been murdered by his Stepfather he along with his half Brother Thomas he flees Paris. On the boat to England he meets Dominique ( 4 or 5 years his senior ) they stay together in England for the next few years. By the time Matthiew is in his mid 50s he stops aging, and in 1999 he is the major stockholder in a satellite broadcasting station and his Great-nephew Tommy (thier have been many before him) is a TV daytime star. Going forward and backword through time we meet Matthiew helping Pope Pius IX to build a great opera house in Rome in 1847,having lunch with Herbert Hoover before he becomes President , the Great Depression,the beheading of King Louis XVI ing 1793,watching the downfall of some his friend due to Senator Joe McCarthy, helping to plan the first Olympics in Paris,drinking with Charlie Chaplin in California in the 1920s.two world wars and never being able to help any of his many nephews from coming to a bad end. I don't know what genre this story belongs in and it may not be for everyone , but for me it was just WOW!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Evie Pey

    I love this book, it is very unusual. It's a story that I have never read before which is very unusual and it is so well written it pulls you in. I will definitely read another by this author. I love this book, it is very unusual. It's a story that I have never read before which is very unusual and it is so well written it pulls you in. I will definitely read another by this author.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eyejaybee

    Matthieu Zela, the narrator of this novel, was born in Paris in 1743. By 1999 (the present day for the novel) he is 256 years old, but has not aged noticeably for more than two centuries, and still appears to be a healthy, sprightly man in early middle age. The novel takes the form of three separate narratives, one recounting Zela’s early experiences, and his departure from Paris as a teenager, and his struggles to establish himself in England. In this he is accompanied by Dominique, a beautiful Matthieu Zela, the narrator of this novel, was born in Paris in 1743. By 1999 (the present day for the novel) he is 256 years old, but has not aged noticeably for more than two centuries, and still appears to be a healthy, sprightly man in early middle age. The novel takes the form of three separate narratives, one recounting Zela’s early experiences, and his departure from Paris as a teenager, and his struggles to establish himself in England. In this he is accompanied by Dominique, a beautiful young Parisienne who has also fled her homeland, escaping unspecified travails back home. The second narrative follows Matthieu in the present day of 1999 (the novel was published in 2000), by which time he has amassed huge wealth and is a significant shareholder in an early participant in satellite television broadcasting. The third narrative flits back and forth between various episodes from the intervening phases of Matthieu’s long eventful life. Having once succeeded in establish a firm financial basis for his life, Matthieu finds himself taking one several different careers, mostly in arts-based circles, although he tends to be an administrator rather than a creator. At different times we find him managing a new opera house in Rome, working on the fringes of Hollywood in the 1920s and rubbing shoulders with Charlie Chaplin, then later working in the early days of the television explosion if post-war America, labouring under the shadow of the McCarthy witch hunts. With each new window on a phase of his life we find him embarking on a new marriage or extended relationship. He also stands as mentor and unofficial guardian to a succession of ‘nephews’, although by 1999 a string of ‘greats’ is needed to pinpoint exactly how distant the relationship has become. This may all sound extremely fanciful, but such is the strength of John Boyne’s writing and plotting that once Zela has made his opening statement about his age, the reader goes along with it entirely. Once the reader has encompassed that leap of faith, the rest follows on naturally. All very engaging and very accomplished.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Judith Shadford

    So, Matthieu Zela, narrator, is 256 years old. As the novel ends, the chronology ticks off the minutes until the year 2000. This is not fantasy, nor is it science fiction. As much as I enjoyed reading it, I kept thinking, "But what is this about?" Maybe I have a bead on the answer. Zela lives the way the rest of us do until he's 50-ish. And then nothing changes, decade after decade. Many marriages, bouncing back between England and America, Europe, Paris (during the French Revolution), always wi So, Matthieu Zela, narrator, is 256 years old. As the novel ends, the chronology ticks off the minutes until the year 2000. This is not fantasy, nor is it science fiction. As much as I enjoyed reading it, I kept thinking, "But what is this about?" Maybe I have a bead on the answer. Zela lives the way the rest of us do until he's 50-ish. And then nothing changes, decade after decade. Many marriages, bouncing back between England and America, Europe, Paris (during the French Revolution), always with a "nephew", Tomas, originally his half-brother. Each of these major periods is sliced and rearranged on the narrative platter, bouncing back and forth throughout the book. This works pretty well, because Boyne has created a consistent character. While Matthieu is a decent human being, he mostly isn't shattered either by personal tragedies or the events of the times. In one of the longest sequences, he's a teenager (properly aged) in England. He and his half-brother Tomas, and Dominique--a beautiful young woman he meets on his flight from Paris--are cared for by a local older couple who truly love Tomas. Matthieu and Dominique are hired at the estate of Lord Alfred Pepys (doesn't go any farther with that lineage), he in the stables, she in the house. At great cost, Matthieu learns the true meaning of friendship. French Revolution, Stock market crash, Charlie Chaplain, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, BBC television studios, his commitment to real friendship gets him into funny, interesting and sometimes consequential scrapes. But he's been pretty teflon-coated with this relationships to the continuing line of Thomases. In the final sequence (1999), he has a flicker of insight. He takes on his nephew, Tommy, who, as a TV star has nearly ODed on cocaine. He tells Tommy his own story, for the first time in his life, admitting his true age. He begins to really care about Tommy and moves several mountains to help this single Thomas live past his 20s. At the very end, in his bathroom mirror, Matthieu sees a few lines, a few white hairs. I think Boyne is, in part saying, it takes a long time to grow up and be a man--gender meant. 256 years.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Boyne’s first novel is a uniquely constructed blend of three narratives that are connected by an equally unique protagonist/narrator, Matthieu Zéla—a 256-year-old man who has stopped aging and is seemingly immortal. The first narrative tells the story of Zéla’s youth in 18th century France and England. This tale focuses mainly on Matthieu’s unrequited love for a woman named Dominique, who—for various reasons—poses as his sister during their travels through the English countryside with Matthieu’s Boyne’s first novel is a uniquely constructed blend of three narratives that are connected by an equally unique protagonist/narrator, Matthieu Zéla—a 256-year-old man who has stopped aging and is seemingly immortal. The first narrative tells the story of Zéla’s youth in 18th century France and England. This tale focuses mainly on Matthieu’s unrequited love for a woman named Dominique, who—for various reasons—poses as his sister during their travels through the English countryside with Matthieu’s younger half-brother Thomas. Another narrative strand, episodic in nature, follows Matthieu through his involvement in numerous historically significant events such as the Reign of Terror during the French revolution, the founding of the modern Olympic games, the film career of Charlie Chaplin, and the Wall Street crash that precipitated the Great Depression. The final narrative is set in contemporary London, where Matthieu works as a television executive and assists his nephew Tommy (a descendent of his 18th-century half-brother), who is a drug-addicted soap opera star. Although the narratives loosely align with three developmental stages in Matthieu’s life—namely youth, middle-age, and maturity—Boyne makes little effort to structure the episodes of each narrative strand in any way that would suggest thematic resonance. Indeed, they are woven together in a seemingly random fashion. Consequently, while Boyne’s writing is clear and crisp and Matthieu’s narrative voice is well developed and distinct, the overall story hardly qualifies as a conventional novel featuring a traditional plot structure. Furthermore, Matthieu never bothers to discover why he stopped aging and why he continues to live; thus, the mystery behind his immortality is never revealed. The Thief of Time is an enjoyable and, at times, thrilling read, but it never quite “clicks” as a unified novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    SiSi O'Driscoll

    As soon as I read the description for this I knew I would love it. It had real Age of Adeline vibes and I loved that movie. It's like a touch of supernatural but is still vert realistic and takes place in the world as we know it. I didn't actually realise this was Boyne's first book and after reading it, it made a lot more sense to me why he released a book like A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom early this year (you can find the review for that book on the blog as well). I thought A Traveller a As soon as I read the description for this I knew I would love it. It had real Age of Adeline vibes and I loved that movie. It's like a touch of supernatural but is still vert realistic and takes place in the world as we know it. I didn't actually realise this was Boyne's first book and after reading it, it made a lot more sense to me why he released a book like A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom early this year (you can find the review for that book on the blog as well). I thought A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom was very different to his usual style as the first book I read by him was The Heart's Invisible Furies. However, since The Thief of Time is actually his first, this is actually more his style. Similar to A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, The Thief of Time takes place during some major moments in our history and I love how Boyne makes us feel like we're on the streets of Paris during the French Revolution or in the trading rooms during the Wall Street Crash. The main thing that I loved about this book was that it really was a story. Similar to Hamnet, it felt like a real story you get told by your grandad or someone sitting around the fire. It is so rare to come across books like that these days I feel. They can have a lot of underlying political messages which is fine, but sometimes you just want a good story. My favourite story during Zela's long life is actually his original story of moving to England from France. I really liked Jack and found that I could picture the characters and surroundings really clearly. I didn't like Dominique, she was such a frustrating character but that's the role she was playing so it shows how well she was depicted. I'm not giving this a full 10/10 mainly because I found I enjoyed some of Boyne's other books way more. One thing that I found a little unrealistic (apart from the fact that the protagonist doesn't age!), was that I feel he would have had to change his name at least once over the years but that's just me being very picky! It's still a fantastic read and where the ending is a little predictable, it was a nice way to tie it up.

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