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The Thief of Time Kindle Edition

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Length: 388 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Published in the U.K. before his hits Crippen and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this novel sails similarly historical currents with mixed results. Matthieu Zela is 256 years old in 1999, but doesn't look a day over 50. (Bafflingly—to himself, too—he simply stopped aging.) Loquacious Matthieu crisscrosses the centuries with wry, autobiographical narration, moving from his current incarnation as a satellite TV entrepreneur in London to his coming-of-age in the 1750s, when he leaves Paris for England with his young half-brother Tomas in tow and meets his one true love, Dominique Sauvet. Matthieu's one deep regret, however, isn't romance-related: of the 10 generations of Thomases descended from his brother, each has had his life cut short, "either by his own stupidity or by the machinations of the times." Matthieu's current nephew, Tommy, a wildly popular soap opera star, is a heroin addict and not long for this world. Matthieu vows to prevent his too-early demise. In between, Matthieu shares too predictable highlights from his brushes with world events (the French Revolution, the 1929 stock market crash, etc.) and famous people (Pope Pius IX, Charlie Chaplin, the Rosenbergs). The picaresque nature of this hopscotch through history's hot spots suits Boyne's big-canvas talent, but Matthieu, in his unexplained immortality, is more like a storytelling device than a fully realized character. This novel is not a follow-up but a practice run. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Akin to Dorian Gray (but without the debauched lifestyle), Matthieu Zela is over 250 years old but still looks like a man in his late 40s. Born in Paris in 1743, Matthieu is orphaned as a teenager and sails to England with his half-brother Tomas--there he meets his one true love, the beautiful yet manipulative Dominique. After their affair ends in tragedy, he embarks on a colorful journey through the centuries, meeting up with such notables as Pope Pius IX, Robespierre, Charlie Chaplin, Herbert Hoover, and the Rosenbergs. All the while, he watches over each successive generation of his half-brother's descendents--all male, all with some variant of the name Thomas, and all sadly dying at a young age (but not before begetting an heir). He never bewails his long-lived condition like some dissolute character out of an Anne Rice novel, but enjoys life and, in his words, leads a "constructive existence." This lively historical saga (with a touch of the fantastic--the reason for Matthieu's longevity is never explored) is undyingly recommended. Michael Gannon
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 975 KB
  • Print Length: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Publication Date: March 6, 2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004O0TUO4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,000 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels for adults and three for children. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, reached no.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into an award-winning Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 45 languages. He lives in Dublin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rich Stoehr on February 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
"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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C.J. on April 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In their review shown above the comment is made that the central character is "more like a story telling device than a fully realized character". The novel is really a grouping of chapters that skip back and forth through time, with the main focus on his early life before he stopped aging centuries ago, and then into the present day where he is a perpetually middle aged man. In between are stories that are for the most part unrelated to the other parts of the book. It's a bit like short stories imbedded in a novel. But I did not find them effective as short stories, nor did I gain any insight into the main character through these stories. The connecting thread is the fact that throughout his long life this never aging man has a young relative, beginning with his younger brother, always with the same name and always meeting a sad fate. This contrivance was unconvincing and confused. Did he have no other relatives? He had been married many times, wives who conveniently die young or others that we never are told about. Occasionally strong writing shows when he describes the character's early life, but fails to convince or even entertain when we go forward, and back again, then forward with stops here and there for a story that goes nowhere. I found the book unfulfilling as fantasy (which it never really tries to be despite the fantastical premise) and while occasionally effective and even entertaining as escapist melodrama, it just didn't work for me. I got through the whole thing but it took quite a while.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By N.G on May 20, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had loved the boy in the striped pajamas, however I am somewhat disappointed by this Boyne novel.
As entertaining as it might be to some, it gave me a very quick and shallow sum-up of the history of Europe in the last three hundred years more than follow a clear storyline. Some chapters were totally irrelevant to the main plot and the two phases of his life, its beginning and end, on which the author puts most weight, were quiet honestly, boring.
I had bought it along "Mutiny on Bounty" and hope that the second book won't disappoint me like this one did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wonderfully gripping novel about the cost of immortality and the consequences of loving others. I started reading on the plane back from vacation and ended up walking through the airport with my nose buried in the book. Highly reccommend for those seeking a character study with vague undercurrents of philosophy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Frenchman Matthieu Zéla may be the only 256-year-old television executive in London. He has been gifted with extraordinary long life minus the nuisance of actually aging, but this supposed blessing comes with a price: Matthieu must bear witness to the destruction of a long line of nephews and grand-nephews, who all die young and violent deaths and are named some variation of Thomas.

THE THIEF OF TIME by John Boyne (author of the recent bestseller THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS and the acclaimed novel CRIPPEN) begins in the French revolution during Matthieu's natural lifespan. After his mother's murder at the hands of his stepfather, Matthieu leaves France for England, his young stepbrother Thomas --- the first of the doomed Thomases --- in tow. The boys soon meet Dominique, another French citizen fleeing Paris. They join forces, finding work as domestics in an English village, and Dominique becomes Matthieu's first love. Their story is told intermittently between Matthieu's adventures over the last 200 years to bring us up to 1990.

Matthieu is a Zelig figure, planning the first Olympics, partying with Charlie Chaplin and watching his first career in television fall victim to McCarthyism. After a dozen or so wives and nearly as many career changes, Matthieu is a TV executive worried over the current Thomas, Tommy DuMarqué, a soap opera star with dangerous habits. One of Tommy's girlfriends is expecting a child; in Matthieu's experience, as soon as a Thomas has ensured the continuance of the line, his luck runs out and tragedy strikes.

It's beginning to get to Matthieu --- all these young men dead while he remains perfectly preserved in his early 50s, almost as if the years his young relatives gave up were transferred to him.
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