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The Thief of Time Paperback – January 1, 2007

3.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An extraordinary debut" Sunday Express "A minor masterpiece" Time Out "Boyne should be congratulated for his spirited take on an old theme" Guardian "Boyne is a skilful storyteller, expertly weaving differing stories together" Sunday Tribune --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971. He is the author of nine novels for adults, five for young readers and a collection of short stories. Perhaps best known for his 2006 multi-award-winning book The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, John's other novels, notably The Absolutist and A History of Loneliness, have been widely praised and are international bestsellers. His most recent book is The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain, which sees him returning to the setting of the Second World War. His novels are published in over 45 languages. www.johnboyne.com @john_boyne --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0041T4OZI
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,015,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a good idea this seemed when I read the summary of this book. I had not read anything yet by John Boyne ... and now I don't think I will read another book of his. There are so many historical errors (some hilarious, like "kinescopes" in 1921!!) that I wished the author had hired someone who could do the necessary research. Even one "Thomas" character dies twice during World War II. It's hard to believe that the term "lifestyle" was in use during the last half of the 18th century and I know that "lunch" wasn't. So little day-to-day historical detail is glossed over and, as I said, there are so many errors (look at my notes in the Kindle edition). I kept on for the unintentional humor (the Rosenbergs in attendance at a glamorous Hollywood party in 1948!!) and to see how the character progresses It's beyond belief that so many Thomases led the same type of lives. It's all rather sophomoric ... and then there's the lack of proofreading, which is viciously endemic in Kindle e-books. It's obvious that the text was scanned and not corrected and probably that was done somewhere in a non-English speaking country. One chapter in particular has so many errors it's really hard to read. I especially loved "raisin d'etre" and "dead vu". Really lovely editing or lack of it. Am I asking for too much for my $7.00? I don't think so.
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I have become quite a fan of John Boyne this year and added this title to my library, just because he was the author. It turns out it is one of his earlier works and although it was a fun read it lacks the depth of his current works.
It is a different twist on the story line of eternal life. The lead character is flawed but likable and the construction of the story line is well done.
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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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