Thursday, August 2, 2018

Claire North - The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again.
No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.
Until now.
As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. "I nearly missed you, Doctor August," she says. "I need to send a message."
This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

Comment: This is a book I decided to buddy read with my friend H. As usual, I managed to read first but I must say this was a very positive surprise.

Harry August is a kalachara, which we understand as the pages go by, as being someone who can be reborn despite dying over and over again. The catch is that each time Harry is reborn he goes back to the same moment but as he gets older he still retains all the memories from his previous lives.
As his lives progress and he learns how to behave and to expect changes in his choices, he also must deal with others like him. However, some agree with his way of thinking, there's even an organization that helps those who arrive in the world in a not so easy way but there are those who want to use their status to change the world in ways no one could avoid or where it wouldn't be possible to stop catastrophes...

When I started reading this book, narrated by the protagonist Harry, I immediately thought about another book I've read with this theme, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, but now that I've read both, I got the impression this book by Claire North is a lot better when it comes to the way the information comes across.
This book's narrative focus a lot more on Harry's personality and his choices and Atkinson's was more confusing and seemed to focus a little more on the changes in each life of the character. Of course, it helps a lot that in this book we can have the main characters already knowing what he felt and lived through in previous lives and isn't unaware like Atkins's protagonist.

In fact, this was my favorite aspect of the story. I could think of the logical of such a situation happening (this is obviously not a very scientific theory) and then it's easy to accept that the laws of physics, of nature and of life itself could bent so for fictional purposes, but it's actually fun to imagine if it were possible. The author of course adds a lot of historical, scientific and sociological elements to add veracity and believability to what happened around the characters' lives.
Even if we couldn't believe the way Harry can be reborn, it's still quite a journey to see him go through so many experiences. I confess I was really eager to keep turning the pages.

Another interesting detail for me was to see how Harry rarely changed into a unlikely character. For the most part he is a likable and reliable character to care for. He does act not as well in some of his lives but he makes for it in others, which proves we can all be moved by what is happening to us and in our lives. I liked Harry was not perfect, but I did want him to choose better here and there, considering he knew things overall, from past lives.

There is some conflict and not as great lives for Harry. Those were complicated to go through.
I think apart from the detail, there's also a continuity that mixes all lives somehow so each experience, including the more negative ones, fells necessary and logical to have been included. I liked we also could think about several issues from a psychological and philosophic POV.

Probably what didn't make this more perfect for me was how some situations dragged. Also, the end was very...unsatisfactory because it doesn't really offer closure, it's more an idea in the air that we can read anyway we want but personally I'd have liked other clues to validate what I think should have been the perfect ending. But I kind of understand why the author decided to leave it to out imagination.
All in all, a great story! I'm thinking about trying something else by the author.
Grade: 8/10