Let me preface this by saying that I read the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August a couple of months ago. Therefore, my review will not be as detailed as some of the others. Nonetheless, I can say that I really enjoyed this book even though there were some bumps along the way.
Maybe that was my fault but somewhere in the middle of the book, I just stopped reading for a few weeks. I could not motivate myself to continue reading on. I do not remember anymore where this was, but I believe it to be somewhere between the beginning and let's say the middle of the book. Neither can I tell you why I stopped. It just happened.
My best guess is that the book simply overwhelmed me. I am not a native English speaker; however, I do consider my English to be on a quite high level. I am not saying that the book is difficult to read linguistically but the themes and connections that Claire North created are not easy to all keep in mind.
Yet, in the end I thoroughly enjoyed reading the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.
I would rate this book a 7,5/10. While I liked the storyline as well as the themes that Claire North implemented along the way, I found it hard to understand the underlying message.
Claire North is an alias used by the british author Catherine Webb. She also wrote under the alias of Kate Griffin. She was born on the 27.04.1986.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August won Catherine the "Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year" Award.
Date of release: 28.08.2014
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Let me start out by saying that I will do my best to review this book as accurately as possible, which will be difficult given the fact that I read the book a couple of months ago and have read quite a few books in between. Thus, I will not be able to talk about specifics of the book, sorry.
Regardless, this is a book that really stood out when I thought about which books I wanted to review. Already when I read the blurb (apparently that’s what the text on the back of a book is called) I was fascinated by the basic idea that Claire North used to write this book.
A few people start at the very beginning of their lives once they died. That is basically it. It is so simple, yet so unique. I know, the idea itself is not but I like her take on it. This is also why I started reading with so much enthusiasm and I was very intrigued by the world that Claire North laid out in front of me. However, this enthusiasm faded after a while, when I realized that you really needed to focus on the story that Harry is telling you. The thing is that he does not tell the story chronologically, which makes absolute sense, since this book is essentially Harry’s memoirs. To be precise, this means that he throws in some stories that at first glance, have little to do with the overall plotline. You then have to put those pieces together yourself, which is what I believe to be the main point that put me off and caused me to cease reading for a while.
When I continued reading I quickly gained some of my enthusiasm back and I finished the book in a short amount of time.
What intrigued me was Claire Norths take on the concept of being reborn. My first question was, how you gained your memory back and I think that she solved this quite well. The principle that you gradually regain your memory makes perfect sense to me and it makes for some funny scenes when a 8 year old boy talks in the manner of a grown man.
The turn at the end still quite surprised me, when I read it:
I am writing this to you
You know, already, you must know
You have lost
I guess I should have expected it, but I didn’t, so I sat there smiling like a fool because I suddenly understood the actual purpose of the story.
In terms of details, what stuck with me was that Harry was not always that refusing towards Vincent’s project. At first, he supported him for a good junk of one of his lives – if I remember correctly. Which in my opinion shows some kind of inner conflict, like the fact that he is unsure what to do with all his lives and then finds himself stuck in some bad situations. You could also see some character arc, some progress Harry is making, where I believe the turning point to be when he decides to shoot the soon-to-be murderer before he even did anything. This of course could raise a lot of questions about the ethics of his doings which I do not want to get into at this point in time.
I know, this is not a very elaborated review but in conclusion I would like to say that even though I had a low during reading, I still enjoyed the book for the uniqueness of the plot and the intriguing ideas that Claire North has come up with.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a book that has more to it than just a simple storyline, where you could easily contemplate about deeper meanings (maybe with friends) and hidden messages. You could also read it, if you are interested in Sci-Fi books (which is how I found out about it), because the over-all theme is definitely sci-fi related. Although it is not classic sci-fi (with new planets and stuff) it is nevertheless a great read!