The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The first fifteen lives of Harry August

Genre: popular fiction, science fiction

Rating: 9/10

Favourite quote from the book: There is no greater isolation a man may experience than to be lonely in a crowd. He may nod and smile and say the right thing, but even by this pretence his soul is pushed further away from the kinship of men”.

The book begins with a small girl at the bedside of an old man asking him to pass a message back in time because the world is ending. We then follow the story, or as it might be more aptly put stories, of Harry August, a man who relives his life over and over again. We learn what he does in each of his lives, the main people he meets and ultimately how he comes to have the responsibility of preventing the world from ending, and what he will do with that responsibility.

I absolutely loved this book. It is beautifully written, and one of those books where you have to pause every now and then to have a think. You know the ones? It makes you consider what you would do if put in the same situations, as well as think about the moral implications of your own actions in everyday life. The characters in the book for instance at times treated ‘linear people’ (those who only live their lives once) as somewhat inconsequential, because for them every time they came back the same people would be there again. Anyway that part really made me stop and think about how even if something isn’t going to affect you, is it right that you should do as you please despite the consequences to others? Another moment which made me stop and think was when considering how I would react if someone I knew told me they had lived their life before (and could prove it!), which led really to me thinking about how far we are willing to accept those we love.

I hope now that I’m not putting anyone off by making them think it’s a load of philosophical sappy drivel, it truly isn’t! The plot is very good, with a number of intertwining subplots which make it a gripping read. The characters are also very three dimensional, which enables you to empathise with them a great deal. Although not a truly unique idea of time travel (it reminded me very much of ‘Groundhog day’, only with an entire lifetime rather than a single day), it certainly wasn’t a cliché!

When trying to think if there was anything I disliked about the novel (so you don’t all think I am related to the author) I found it very hard. One thing which has been kind of mentioned already is the idea of love. Not just romantic love, but the love of family and friends too. Without spoiling the book, Harry is a man who pursues knowledge, which is fine by me and perhaps if it had harked on about love it would have annoyed me for being too romantic. However I wondered whether if I went back and lived my life several times over, if I would seek out the same friends and loved ones? Surprising myself really, I ended up concluding that perhaps Claire North has the right of it, perhaps having to start relationships with people from the beginning, when you already know them would be demoralising and boring.

Sadly I can’t say how it compares to the authors other work as this was my first novel by her (I am aware she was using an alias for this book, and have read nothing under any of her pen names). However I will be very much looking forward to her next book ‘Touch’ and am really hoping it will come out during 2015 so I can review it too!

Please feel free to comment, as I would love to know your thoughts, whether you have read the book or not. Do you think you would be more or less concerned about the lives of others if you knew they would exist again the next time you were reborn? And do you think you would seek out the same people life after life, or just move on? Apologies for the comment section, with the new layout there isn’t a simple box at the bottom, but if you scroll upwards again there is a ‘leave a comment’ option under the title. I may have to change that.

Until next time xxx

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