Saturday, April 4, 2015

'The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August'

Time travel books suck me in.  

Sure, they are hard to follow at first (as in 'The Time Traveler's Wife'), but once you get with the program (and make a diagram; I've done it, so don't laugh!), the rest of the story is easy to understand.

And so it was with 'The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August', by Claire North (a pseudonym!  It was really written by Catherine Webb!  Pseudonyms, like bow ties, are cool).

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry August 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 and says, "I nearly missed you, Doctor August!  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.

As I started reading this story, I have to admit that I wasn't sure I wanted to write a review about it.  I honestly couldn't follow it well enough to form an honest opinion.  Harry's back story is a real bear, and you have to relive it several times.  

But things changed about halfway through it.  When the antagonist is introduced, the story takes off and you almost cheer Harry as he dies again and again, hoping to stay ahead of his enemy and vanquish him.

The writing is gorgeous, and very clever.  Very literary, actually.  You can almost taste every era, and you so want to embrace those who share a place in the Chronos Club.

But the antagonist is clever; just when you think he will finally show his basic decency, he fails us and Harry.

If you read this, please stay with it.  As I've said, it takes a while to 'get into it', but it's well worth the effort.  Claire North, a.k.a. Catherine Webb, is such a fine writer, and very dedicated to her craft.  Books like this are rare.

Give it a try.  Give it a chance.  You'll be so pissed off, but very rewarded.

'The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August', by Claire North, is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore. ISBN 9780316399616


WritingGoddess said...

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh shoot. Wish I had known this. I tried and tried to read it. I read about 150 pages and gave up. Donated the book. Now I see it turned out decent? You have more dedication and determination than I, my friend.

Jacki said...

One book I really need to try to read again is 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell'. For the life of me, I couldn't get into it. Neil Gaiman said that it really takes off in the last third of the book, but it didn't do it for me. Boring. But I'll take a chance with the BBC production.