Matthieu Zela has lived his life well. In fact, he's lived several lives well. Because Matthew Zela's life is characterised by one amazing fact: his body stopped ageing before the end of the eighteenth century.
Starting in 1758, a young Matthieu flees Paris after witnessing his mother's brutal murder. His only companions are his younger brother Tomas and one true love, Dominique Sauvet. The story of his life takes us from the French Revolution to 1920s Hollywood, from the Great Exhibition to the Wall Street Crash, and by the end of the twentieth century, Matthieu has been an engineer, a rogue, a movie mogul, a soldier, a financier, a lover to many, a cable TV executive and much more besides.
Brilliantly weaving history and personal experience, this is a dazzling story of love, murder, missed chances, treachery - and redemption.
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.
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
'The history that one can create with a friend, a lifetime of history and shared experience, is a wonderful thing and shabbily sacrificed. And yet a true friend is a rare thing; sometimes those whom we perceive as friends are simply people with whom we spend a lot of time.'
Jack Holby, he seemed like a great friend to Michael and was definitely one of the strongest and most likeable characters.