So Harry August is one of a relatively small group of people who live their lives, die, and are born again in exactly the same place and time, to live more or less the same life all over again. Unlike other forms of reincarnation individuals like Harry remember the details of all of their previous incarnations. While waiting to die at the end of his eleventh life he is visited by a young girl who tells him that the end of the world is coming, faster than expected, and that he is the only person who can do something about it. Cue lives twelve to fifteen.
Why did I want to read it?
I think I must have seen a review or two about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August because I remember downloading it, but unfortunately can’t remember where I heard about it. I know it was a Richard and Judy book thingy choice but I’m pretty sure I found that out afterwards. I decided to read it now because I was due to attend a book event for the launch of Claire North’s new novel, Touch.
What did I think of it?
Quite simply I couldn’t put this down and have been recommending it all over the place since I finished it in the middle of the night last weekend. Harry is a complex character and not entirely likeable I think, though of course you become very attached to him as you live his various lives with him. Seeing how he makes use of his knowledge of the future (only partly to make money on which to live), how he connects with others like himself, the friendships he makes and how he deals with the problem with which he has been presented is just fascinating.
It’s beautifully written, more complex than the structure might suggest, and has a very satisfying conclusion. I don’t want to say too much more about the story than I already have because seeing how it all works out in his various lives is one of the great joys. I will say that to me it shares similar themes with Life After Life, All You Need is Kill and parts of The Bone Clocks, but only tangentially, and is very much it’s own book.
Claire North is really delightful in person, and I had the chance to ask her about the writing of the book and how she kept track of Harry’s lives and in particular what age he was at any particular time; I was thinking wall chart but delighted to find a spreadsheet was deployed. But all of that sits in the background and Harry’s journey is very immediate no matter which of his lives we happen to be visiting at any one time.
I loved this and would urge you to give it a try if you haven’t done so already.