It’s that time again, another two months have passed and another book has been the subject of our casual reading group. This time, Sarahjane chose a time travelling adventure in the form of ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’.
With a birthday voucher for Amazon burning a hole in my pocket, I managed to pick this one up for the grand total of £3.85. Lesley found it for £3.99 on the Kindle and everyone else spent a similar amount of money on the paperback. For those of you who prefer browsing book stores, Waterstones are selling the paperback for £8.99.
The novel is written by Claire North and describes, in amazing detail, the multiple lives of a character known as Harry August. Expertly written, with in-depth descriptions of historical events, science and politics, the reader is taken on a magical journey through time, as seen through the eyes of the main character, Harry. He cannot ‘die’ in the traditional sense of the word but, at the end of each life, wakes up as an infant, exactly where he was born, and lives his life all over again.
The book begins with a teaser, hinting to the reader that all is not well with the world – Harry is visited on the death bed of his eleventh life and told the world is ending and he has to stop it. Without knowing anything of how this character’s multiple lives work, or the type of person he is, we are immediately confused (much like Harry) and intrigued to read further, hoping all will be revealed. The second chapter then ‘begins at the beginning’ and everything about Harry’s complicated ‘life’ is explained.
While there are multiple flashbacks (or flashforwards depending on your perspective) interspersed throughout the book, the revelation at the end of Harry’s eleventh life is only brought up again once the reader has sufficient knowledge to understand the significance of the message - the reader is also presented with the information that Harry is not the only one of his kind in the world... While, in theory, time-travellers can affect the past and future of those living the ‘linear’ life, it is frowned upon and strongly discouraged so as not to end the world prematurely. Given that this is the premonition Harry is faced with, he spends all of his lives (12 through 15) tracking down the person responsible, in an attempt to return to the normal course of history.
Despite each life being totally different, eventually they all seem to run into one, and the reader is carried along on the tide of emotions and experiences which affect Harry. There was even a moment where I felt so worried for his safety, I couldn’t contain my relief at the start of chapter 58 and had to message the rest of the girls so that they could feel my joy too! The reader is left guessing the outcome of the story until the last possible second, which is perhaps the reason I managed to finish the last quarter of the book in one evening!
Overall, I think this book has been equally well received by everyone and probably the best we’ve read so far. While both Nikki and Lesley suggested the start can get a little confusing, with the various jumps between different lives, I didn’t find this to be a problem - perhaps because I read it so quickly! The whole idea of Harry’s ‘time traveling’ is also an interesting take on the time travel concept in general, and completely different to any similar novels such as ‘The Time Travellers Wife’. As I’ve stated before, I’m reluctant to rate anything as perfect, but this novel comes pretty close. If it wasn’t for the rather abrupt ending, I honestly believe I would have given it full marks! As such, the best I can do is rate it as 4.5/5, as I have with the last two. I would highly recommend this for anyone who fancies something a bit different!
Our next book is Nikki’s choice and takes us on the run through the wilderness – ‘The Wolf Road’ by Beth Lewis. Join us again in November and see how we rate the next one!Follow my blog with Bloglovin