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

4.3 out of 5 stars 677 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; 2014 edition edition (28 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0356502589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0356502588
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (677 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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)

North builds her clever conceit into an emotionally satisfying novel (NEW SCIENTIST)

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)

Terrific, smart and entertaining (Patrick Ness)

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A real curate's egg. I liked the concept, and it takes some getting your head around. To summarize: because in consecutive lifetimes people you met in the previous lifetime remember that as their last lifetime too, it seems that the entire world must reset when every single ouroboran from the dawn of time to the end of the human race has completed one life. Which was kind of fun to think about.

This means that you can send messages forward as far as you like in one instantiation of the world, but you can only send a message back by one generation at a time. Nonetheless, our narrator gets a message that the end of the world is happening sooner than it used to. He soon twigs that it's because of a rogue ouroboran in his own lifetime (1919 to the early 21st century) who is meddling in the old Things That Man Was Not Meant etc.

Now here's the biggest flaw in the book. We are asked to accept that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, just as long as ouroborans do nothing to try and improve the human lot. Create antibiotics 50 years early? Why, you fool, there'll be a dotcom crisis in the 1960s and nuclear war before 2020.

[Spoilers here on in...]

There's nothing wrong with SF taking a reactionary view. What would paperback sales be like in Boko Haram territories if it couldn't do that? But the dramtic flaw here is that we are presented with this intriguing, unexplained phenomenon of reincarnation, and one of the characters is trying to build a magic mirror - sorry, quantum mirror - which might well tell him and us what lies behind it all. But he's the bad guy.
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Format: Paperback
When I received this book to review my first thought was “oh no not another time travelling novel”, having not really enjoyed the last one I read, Atkinson’s Life after Life. Thankfully, however I found this novel far better.

It’s an original story of a man repeatedly born again trying to come to terms with what his purpose in life is, as in each recurring life, he is born having retained all his knowledge and experiences from his previous lives. Imagine being 4 years old in the 1920’s and knowing everything that happens in the future like knowing winning lottery numbers, the names of future murderers, future world leaders and events like war breaking out, AIDS, the advance of technology and the progress of science and ultimately the big question Why Me? What am I supposed to do with all this knowledge.

The first part of this novel sees the main protagonist Harry coming to terms with who he is and learning about the special ability he has. Clare North skilfully takes us through this tumultuous journey of confusion and understanding with brilliant, controlled writing. Big ideas and topics are discussed with enough depth and scope to keep the reader thrilled and entertained but not too much to make your head spin and lose the sense of the where the novel is going.

When Harry finds a meaning for his recurring lives, a key character is introduced, Vincent. I felt that both Harry and Vincent were so creatively fleshed out they came alive off the page and I was absolutely engaged in their story which became pacey and dramatic in the second half of the novel.

I thoroughly recommend this book, already have lent it to a friend. It’s so stimulating it has stayed in my mind still and I am sure I will reread it again as it had so much depth and fascinating ideas.
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