The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

This is a book I picked up purely by chance after seeing it recommended by staff at a bookstore. I have never heard of it before or seen it pop up on bookstagram. The premise of this book (seriously, the name is too long to repeat) is what drew me in, particularly after reading Life After Life recently. This book follows a similar idea, the protagonist Harry August lives his lives over and over again. Each time he dies he starts again and gains all the knowledge from his past lives. Eventually he discovers that there are other kalachakras in the world and that they make up the Cronus Club. Described as a literary thriller, in Harry’s eleventh life he receives a message on his death bed that the world is ending. What follows is his decisions and contributions into protecting the future of the world.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the concepts of this book. The theme of multiple lives or even time travel and alternate realities leads to a lot of thought on ethics and morality – something I enjoy considering in fiction as there is so much range. Should you be going through these lives letting history play out as it was meant to be? Do you try and change it for the better? Stop wars, save lives. When do these good deeds backfire? The list is endless. Harry makes some interesting decisions that the reader will not predict throughout his many lives. Whether they are entirely ethical always is another story and I enjoyed following his actions and their subsequent consequences.

 

This book may be a little confusing at times for people as the story is not necessarily chronological. After the first couple of lives the story jumps between his first fifteen lives, back and forth. It can be a little difficult to keep track of but ultimately it works with the novel as different aspects of Harry and his motivations are revealed as they become relevant.

 

There are a host of characters that weave in and out of his many lives. Some are other kalachakras. Others include the people of his early life, parents, adoptive parents and other family members. Then there are love interests and other singular characters an of course the villain that is required. Each of the time plot lines are interesting and may seem a little irrelevant at times but they all contribute to the feel of the novel and who Harry becomes across his hundreds of years.

 

The twist halfway through the book increases the pace and I found myself moving through the second half of the novel quickly. In particular the ending of the novel is quite satisfactory, although came up quite quickly for me and I hadn’t realised I was on the final pages until I turned the page and there was no more. The conclusion leave you much to ponder and I thoroughly enjoyed how thought-provoking, yet easily enjoyable this book was.

 

I would highly recommend this book for something different. Particularly if you are a fan of multiple life spans/alternate realities/time travel. There are some great concepts that North has explored. Harry was also particularly enjoyable as a protagonist as he was far from a perfect or even highly skilled being. Despite his hundreds of years he was still thoroughly human in many ways and in that way quite relatable. I give The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August three bolts of electricity, which play an important role in this novel.

 

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