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The Thief of Time


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The dazzling first novel from the author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, Mutiny on the Bounty and The House of Special Purpose.

About the Author

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of six novels. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award and has recently been made into a Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 30 languages and his new novel, The Absolutist, is published is 2011. He lives in Dublin.


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 2006 Reed Business Information.

In this imaginative work, the author of Crippen presents the life of Matthieu Zela, who has lived for 256 years without aging. Matthieu's first-person narrative weaves together three distinct threads: his current life in 1999, his early years with first love Dominique, and poignant episodes in between. These episodes include the French Revolution (1789-99), the construction of England's Crystal Palace (1851), and the Wall Street Crash (1929). Each chapter is almost a short story in and of itself, which makes reading the novel an initially confusing experience. Having all the time in the world, Matthieu drifts through life, never getting close enough to anyone to tell his secret. He looks after a series of reckless nephews (and great-nephews) named Thomas (or Thom, or Tomas) who seem doomed to die young. Matthieu's tortured love affair with Dominique also resonates throughout the years, influencing his many marriages and relationships. Boyne is creative and entertaining, particularly as he develops his characters. Recommended for public libraries. [Library marketing campaign planned; Boyle's best-selling young adult novel about the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, has been optioned for film.-Ed.]-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"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 *

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