The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
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.
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.
“This thing you carry inside you, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know where you got it. But Harry, the past is the past. You are alive today. That is all that matters. You must remember, because it is who you are, but as it is who you are, you must never, ever regret. To regret your past is to regret your soul.”
This book is incredible. And I have Mike to
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I keep picturing the main character as Eddie Redmayne.
Anyone who knows me will know that this is not my typical reading material at all. I like speed. Action. A fast-paced plot. I hate conspiracies. I don’t do drama. Above all else I fucking hated Groundhog Day. I don’t want to have to think (I already read the news and think plenty of work), for my reading, I want to be entertained. In that sense, this book should have been the antithesis of anything I would ever enjoy.
I was so wrong, so blissfully, gleefully wrong.
What a wonderful book. What a marvelous piece of literature. The hype is real.
This book is about a man who has to relive his life over and over and over, seemingly without end. That is my version of hell. Like most people, I suffer from the ailment of overthinking. I tend to overanalyze my life, I sometimes wished I had another life. I can’t think of anything more horrendous than having to relive one’s life over and over again. I suppose the prospect might be fun for some, if one is born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth. But what if one were born into hardship? Imagine, say, a child born into the depths of poverty in Africa. There is only so much upward mobility that’s possible for such a person. With few exceptions, it is difficult to change one’s path in life.
Imagine knowing what’s going to happen, and unable to prevent it. All the tragedies, all the needless deaths that have occurred since one’s birth. It’s enough to drive a person mad.
To relive one’s life is nightmarish indeed.
This book explores that concept with exceptional depth and reality. The writing is beautiful. Evocative without being purple-prosey in the slightest. To take a few words from J.K. Rowling, the author of this book did things with words I’ve never seen before. It’s magical. She manages to verbalize the concept of a single word, spinning it into a paragraph without making it seem utterly unnecessarily verbose.
Euphoria is, I believe, the term they use to describe the sensation, and upon experience I found it to be an entirely useless definition, as it relies on comparatives that are not apt to the situation. A happiness beyond compare, a contentment beyond understanding, a bliss, a travelling, a freeing of the mind from the flesh–these are all, in their ways, an appropriate description of the process, but they mean nothing, for no recollection can re-create them and no substitute mimic them.
This book doesn’t deal with the issue of depression as much as it deals with the issue of existentialism, and in many ways, they’re the same.
“I know now that there is something dead inside me though I cannot remember exactly when it died.”
The despair of existence, the fact that one has to relive life after life, finding meaning in each, and then losing it. Making impossible decisions knowing the consequences. Losing loved ones over and over again.
My loss of faith was not revelatory, nor intensely distressing. It was a prolonged growth of resignation, one which the events of my life had only reinforced, until I was forced to conclude that any conversations I had with a deity were entirely one way.
Now to the negatives. The writing aside, this book moves at the pace of a snail with a broken leg (I know that snails don’t have legs, but isn’t that the cutest imagery ever?). Here, have a cartoon.
Nevertheless, the writing more than makes up for the slow pacing.