The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is a super-charged version of “Groundhog Day” with a spy novel twist. Instead of living one day over and over again, the protagonist, Harry August, lives his whole life over again after he dies. He is not the only one who can do this. They are called the Kalachakra (meaning “wheel of time”) and when they die they are born again to the same parents and under the same circumstances. What is different is that the Kalachakra retain the memories of their past lives.
In each life Harry chooses a different path. He pursues various careers, travels the world and researches religions and philosophies in the hope of finding an explanation to his continued existence. The Kalachakra pass messages to each through time and at the end of Harry’s 11th life he is told the world is ending too fast and he needs to find out why.
Harry turns his energies and lives to pursuing who is systematically introducing advanced technologies into the world at the wrong times in history and thus speeding up the world’s ultimate demise. In the pursuit of this knowledge, Harry establishes a duplicitous relationship with a fellow Kalachakra that becomes part friendship, part scientific muse and part nemesis.
I enjoyed the level of historical detail the author built for the characters to interact with. Spanning from the early 1900’s to the turn of the century the author incorporates so many real events going on during Harry’s existence that it really makes you feel like you are reliving them as well.
Even though the story is serious in most parts, there is a level of humor that the author skillfully weaves through the entire novel. At times it is the amusing interior dialogue that runs through Harry’s head when people are speaking to him. Other times it is the unique situations he finds himself in like being a doctor in a past life and in a future life having to pretend not to know how to read yet. Or forcing himself to write a history paper with the knowledge of a teenager instead of a Cambridge don.
Overall I found this to be a fantastic, well-written book that had many twists and turns. It is a science-fiction, spy thriller and mystery novel all wrapped up into one. I would love to read more about Harry after his 15th life!
Recommendation: If you are interested in more time-related fiction try the Timebound Series by Rysa Walker
Do you have any good time-travel reads you can recommend? I would love some more suggestions! Leave a reply below.