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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Paperback – 28 Aug 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (28 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0356502589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0356502588
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (414 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Utterly readable, utterly believable and compelling . . . one of the fiction highlights of the decade (Judy Finnigan, Richard and Judy Book Club)

Beautiful and gripping (GUARDIAN)

The writing is impeccable . . Plus Harry is a fascinating main character . . . And if his next 15 lives are half as eventful, we look forward to the sequel (HEAT)

A masterful literary thriller (io9)

An astonishing re-invention of the time-travel narrative. Bold, magical and masterful (M. R. Carey, author of THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS)

I don't say this lightly but The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is one of the top ten books I've ever read (James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER)

Gripping (SUN)

This wonderful novel, narrated by Harry, ranges back and forth in time as he recounts episodes from his various lives, but it's all held together by a compelling mystery involving nothing less than the end of the world itself . . . Beautifully written and structured . . . a remarkable book (BOOKLIST)

Every bit as good as its title. (And, to avoid ambiguity, I love the title.) (WEEKEND HERALD)

Grabs you from the first page; it crackles along at a rollicking pace . . . unputdownable (THE SATURDAY PAPER)

A truly extraordinary novel: an impeccable portrait of a friendship tortured by time in which masterful character and fantastic narrative come together to tremendous effect (TOR.COM)

Claire North's sophisticated writing and astute plotting have made this my book of the year (Peter F. Hamilton)

A thoughtful and considered time-travel novel, shocking twists and, most important of all, a beautiful character. Harry August will break your heart fifteen times (Jared Shurin)

A brave, genre-defying novel, which is mind-blowing in its originality and bold concept . . . Stunning! (NOVELICIOUS)

Part unique and intriguing mystery, part philosophical look at life, memory and time travel this story kept me totally gripped from the opening words to the mind-blowing finale (BITE THE BOOK)

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an extraordinary novel, as the publicity has promised (THE SPECULATIVE SCOTSMAN)

An extraordinary book . . . an impressive piece of work. (Upcoming4me)

Book Description

The extraordinary journey of one unforgettable character - a story of friendship and betrayal, loyalty and redemption, love and loneliness and the inevitable march of time. *Richard and Judy Book Club pick* *Waterstones Book Club Pick* *BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick*

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By K. J. Noyes TOP 100 REVIEWER on 21 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Though somehow, it would have passed me by completely if not for the Richard and Judy autumn list. I don't usually like many of their selections, but the title and idea of this stopped me in my tracks. And I was impressed.

Written under a pseudonym (of a previously sci-fi fantasy writer - one I haven't tried), 'Harry August' is a Groundhog Day without the romance, without the comedy, but sprinkled with a little Edge of Tomorrow and a good helping of Source Code, a little torture, megalomania, some philosophical thought and a great deal of intriguing writing.

Harry lives his life. Born to a raped mother in a 1920s railway station, raised not knowing his father, his life is fairly unremarkable despite enlisting in World War Two, his eventual demise from bone marrow cancer does not end his story. He is born again.... at the railway station in the 1920s... With all the knowledge of his previous life floating back to him as a toddler. And so it continues. While the first couple of pages are confusing, once this pattern and idea is set up within a half dozen pages, you're hooked. It's almost wish fulfilment - what would YOU do, living your life again with the chance to make different choices?

It's not a book about 'whys', how this might happen. It's about what we would do with eternity, what we would see and do, what we would change - and not only about ourselves. The book does veer from one life to another, though roughly in sequential order with segues to add context.

Absolutely fascinating stuff. Simply the regeneration alone would be novel-worthy, but more than one adversary pops up for Harry to deal with.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Harris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
When this book first appeared, I was rather ambivalent about buying it. I'd tried a couple of others by North (under a different pseudonym) and not got on with them. However, the endnote promises that this is very different from the author's earlier works, the book got massive praise, and I did buy it. I am really glad I did because - while not perfect - it is extremely readable, bold in concept, enjoyable and thought provoking.

All that despite a theme - the central character lives his life over and over again - which has been used recently in two very high profile stories (Kate Atkinson's "Life after Life" and the film "Edge of Tomorrow", based on "All You Need is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka). North's book, however, avoids imitation of either since she concentrates very firmly on the consequences to her protagonist of his repeated lives. Ostensibly this book is about Harry August and his attempt to prevent a future disaster inflicted on the world by him and his fellow "ourobons". Really, it's an insightful study of the weariness, ennui and spiritual despair of someone destined to repeat life over and over, with only minor variations, coupled with a study of friendship and rivalry.

Harry August is born in 1919, in doubtful circumstances, and has a harsh early life. As with all of his kind, his first few lives are spent coming to terms with living again and again. It's only when he discovers the Cronus Club, a worldwide federation of similar beings, that he really gains some equilibrium. And then, a whispered message from the future warns that the world is ending...

The book is generally very well written - although in places it is perhaps slightly overwritten: sometimes North seems to try just that bit too hard.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Liz Wilkins TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Read this one in a few short sharp bursts - beautifully written, highly compelling and often very strange, Harry August will steal your heart.

He does his best poor chap - but when you live the same life over and over, often falling sooner than you should despite your best efforts to avoid it, it is bound to get wearing. When a young girl tells him that in the future the world is ending and that he needs to sort it out, Harry has even more on his plate.

You are probably thinking Life after Life (an also beautifully written tale) right now but this is very different, just as compelling but for entirely different reasons. Across history there are many like Harry, living out their tiny portions of time over and over again - messages are passed generationally and the world building is stunningly imaginative. Harry himself is a marvel, his thought processes and decision making will keep you hooked into this - despite his best efforts the future world keeps looking bleaker. He has a marvellously brilliant nemesis that he comes up against in each separate life and the interaction between these two is one of the huge strengths of the novel. Loved both of them to be honest really was not sure who I wanted to "win".

Overall then a magnificent read. Loved it. Highly Recommended as is Touch, Claire's latest novel. I don't think I'd like to be Harry though. I truly think that once is enough!

Happy Reading Folks!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 100 REVIEWER on 5 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
It seems inevitable to compare this to Life After Life - both are books about individuals born in the early 20th century who relive their lives again and again. And yet, they are so different. Perhaps the critical difference is that Harry has perfect recall of his previous lives, whereas Ursula (in Life after Life doesn't). Life after Life explores the ideas of the different paths that the same life can take, whereas Harry August is more about a man with a mission, who uses individual lives as ways to accumulate knowledge to help him in the next life.

I loved them both. What can I say? Clearly books about people getting born over and over is my genre. I don't think Harry August is as good a book as Kate Atkinson's, and if GoodReads allowed I'd give it 4.5 stars, but Swedish Rounding has settled the matter.

So. Harry is born repeatedly into the same life in rural England, 1919. His first life passes much like any other, but when he is born again into the same life, he realises that he is different. He is a kalachakra, someone who lives the same life over and over. It takes him a couple of lifetimes to come to terms with this, and then he realises that he is not alone - that there are others like him. Not many, but they come together to help each other through their lives.

What I loved about this book was the thought that the author, Claire North, has put into what it would be like if there were indeed kalachakras among us, and the ways that they would communicate up and down through the generations. Their one sacred rule is that you mustn't do anything to change significant world events and the central plot is what happens when one of them tries to do that.
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