Humans have an infatuation with time travel. How do I know? I’ve read my fair share of time travel stories, and I’m sure that I’ve just scratched the surface.
When I started The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, I didn’t realize I was going to be reading yet another book around time travel. Fortunately, this version of the time travel story had an interesting twist to it.
If you’re familiar with the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, then the premise behind The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August will sound familiar. Instead of waking up and reliving the same day over and over, Harry August lives the same life over and over. Yes, you read that correctly. He is born, lives his life, dies, and starts the process over being born in the exact same place. By the age of 4 or 5, he is able to remember the details of his previous life which gives him the ability to try different things with each life he leads.
Harry lives in the period from the early 1920’s to around the 1980’s usually, give or take a few years depending on what he tries in each life. It makes for interesting storytelling around things like World War II and other notable historical events.
The catch is that Harry is not alone. Others also “suffer” from the same condition. The complication is that they don’t live in the same period but are spread out in time and overlap. Therefore, they leave clues and look out for each other to ensure that members of the order are taken care of properly. Generally speaking, they keep to themselves and do their best not to alter the historical timeline for those who do not get “do-overs.”
It all works fine until a group breaks away and decides they are going to twist history to fit their desires. Harry is torn between working for or against this group which provides the basis for the plot of the story.
Overall, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an entertaining book. However, there are some areas where it can get a bit slow. North jumps around between the various lives that Harry lives, and it wasn’t abundantly clear if all the details helped drive the story forward or provided depth to the characters. Basically, I felt like some parts of the book could have been left out, and the story still would have held together fine.
I wouldn’t put the book in my Must Reads category and recommend putting it at the top of your reading list, but I would suggest that you add it. It’s a Fun Read with a different take on time travel that will entertain you and engage your imagination as you consider the possibilities if you were able to relive your life, not just once but multiple times over.