Book Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

20706317

5star

Title: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Author: Claire North

Series: No 😦

Rating: 5/5 stars

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TFFLOHA

Some of you might have seen me raving about this book on twitter and Goodreads over the past month. I know it’s still January, but I am fairly confident this book will enter my Top 10 list at the end of the year. It was at once an epic tale traversing through numerous timelines, and a quiet study on what make us human.

A Word of Warning on Pacing

Now, I know this won’t be a book for everyone. I must preface it by admitting the pacing is almost detrimentally slow. The writing is expressive yet languorous, I took almost 5 days to read this 400 pages book. Thankfully, the author’s writing craft was well honed, and I was kept riveted by each sentence despite the pacing issue.  Gorgeousness of the writing aside, you should try and hang on and read Harry August due to the reasons below!

Unique Time Traveling Concept

“It is said that there are three stages of life for those of us who live our lives in circles. These are rejection, exploration, and acceptance.”

We begin as Harry August lies on his death bed in his eleventh life, and he recounts his tale from his first life forward. Harry is a kalachakra – fated to relive his life over again every time he dies. In each life time, he wakes as a crying babe in  the 1920s, and he regains his knowledge of former lives by the time he’s 6. In addition to being a kalachakra, Harry is blessed with an eidetic memory and keen intellect – it was an absolute delight watching him navigate through the first couple of lives on his own.

“Ours is the fellowship of strangers who know a secret that we cannot express.”

However, the mythology of this world is expanded exponentially when we learn there are are more people like Harry. In fact, there’s a Cronus Club spanning across centuries and continents. Kalachakras living hidden from mortal sights, repeating their lives while at the same time passing on knowledge through the millenia through an elaborate of of Chinese whispers. For these people, there are infinite possibilities and infinite experiences. I got shivers thinking about However, they are also cursed due to an inability to create true change in the world, as large scale events such as World War II are doomed to repeat. The members of the Cronus Club live their lives a thousand fold, never forming deep connections with the human around them.

The Value of Life

“The most it ever seems we know how to do with time, is to waste it.”

I love this book for the scope of the questions which it poses. Most of the Cronus Club’s members are content to  dally the globe, living in indulgence and experiencing all of life’s excess. Harry, as a newer member and due to some traumatic experiences in his past, questions this way of life.

Either to change a world-many, many worlds, each touched by the choices I make in my life, for every deed a consequence, and in every love and every sorrow truth-or nothing at all.

Do the kalachakras have a purpose, or are they destined to be bystanders of a world they’re forced to relive? Do the opportunity of time and endless second chances enhance or devalue a person’s existence? How much of the world can you experience before you become numb to its worth and beauty? These are all questions which the book attempts to answer – and it never deigns to give it to us straight. We see all the different kalachakra and how they deal with their cycle of life in different ways. It’s endlessly fascinating, and this book provide a concept which allows us to examine the human mind and memory at its limit.

Frenemies and Bromance

“For progress, we have eaten our souls up, and nothing matters anymore.”

Harry makes for an adequately compelling protagonist, however, his relative inertia meant that I welcomed the addition of a character who truly shook up the plot. In him, Harry found both a kindred spirit and a dangerous nemesis. This character (who I refuse to name as it would ruin part of the story) thirsts for knowledge, for cause, for progress. Harry is seduced by his vision – yet together, the two begin to create events that could rip through the fabric of time. Their battle of wit made the last half of the book incredibly rewarding. We see men who have stood untouched by the passage of time, we see men who would like to play God.

Incredibly Rich Research

Finally, I love Harry August for how truly well-researched and all encompassing it was. Harry lives through multiple lifetimes from the 1920s to the late 20th century, and care have been taken to consider all the world events: large and small, in the plot. This is not restricted to Harry’s native England alone. Through his travels, we also see glimpse of Russia, China, South East Asia, and many other destinations as they were in this time period.

I also loved seeing Harry’s challenge as he tried to hide his foreknowledge in medicine, in science, and in history from his mortal counterparts. This particular aspect of the novel was so particularly well done, I want to clutch the book and hug it every time I think of it!


I just loved this book so damn much – I get the tingles when science fiction books make me question the world I live in, and ponder endlessly what it’ll be like for me to inhabit its particular universe.

Needless to say, I want to beg you all to read this book and share your experience with me!  What would you do if you could relive your lifetime over and over again? (Aside from obviously trying to read every book ever printed ;))

46 thoughts on “Book Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

  1. Oooh Aentee what a well thought out review! At first I thought this sounded a lot like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but after reading your review I can see it’s quite different. Not sure how I’ll feel about the slow pace but I love books that question life. I think the real question is ‘what is the point of the kalachakras – what is the meaning of their existence?’ and it seems Harry asks this question and I wonder if he finds the answer? I can’t imagine reliving timelines and seeing like WWII over and over again but just being a bystander, always knowing but not being able to stop it 😦
    I have added this to my TBR due to your raving!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this book, it’s definitely something I would read! Kalachakras sound really interesting because, like you said, what is their fate and purpose? If they never die, then will they become desensitised to the world? So many questions!

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  3. This sounds like such a good book! I’ll definitely read this as soon as possible. Hopefully the pacing can be eventually be forgivable, like you said. Great review, Aentee!

    P.S.: For your question, I’d most probably make different choices from my lifetime and see how they would turn out since hey, I’ll just get to relive it again and again, right? Like, it would be so interesting to find out what happens when I chose this option instead of that. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I think I’ll have to get a lot more savvy as to what to invest in if I was to relive my life again XD! The pacing is not so bad because the writing is beautiful! Hope you’ll check the book out!

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  4. THIS BOOK SOUNDS SO DANG GOOOODDD!! I don’t even mind that it’s so long (long books are kinda my thang) and the fact that this guy lives a butt load of lives and in different places and all that ?? BRILLIANT! I wonder how long it took the author to research this book, write it, and then publish it!! Just awe-inspiring I tell you!

    Thanks for such a well, thought-out review, lovely! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you’ll give this book a go Keionda, it’s so completely unique and one of those rare books that are engaging to me despite the lack of romance! Thank you ❤

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  5. Loved this book, it was so thought provoking! Nice review. After finishing this book I was almost sad that I had already made my top 10 list at the end of last year. I gave this book 4 stars immediately after I finished, but looking back it probably deserved 4.5.

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  6. You had me sold on this book the moment I saw Eddie Redmayne’s in the edit haha. In all seriousness though I love the sound of this book.The fact that this book is well researched is always a bonus but most of all I love books that make me think and see things from a different perspective. Also, I’m a sucker for a good bromance. 😛

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  7. I’ve heard a lot about this book on booktube and on several book blogs lately, so I’m looking forward to checking it out myself in the near future. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I heard about this book here and there but I kept forgetting about it.. However, your review makes me so eager to read it, I’ll add it to my TBR straight away. Funny thing, I just finished The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry, and it was also about time travel… But very different that what we see most of the time, it was really interesting and the writing was beautiful and poetic. I hope I’ll love The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August when I read it, because it does sounds like a great book! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard such consistently positive things about The Love That Split The World, I definitely need to buy it as soon as I get off this book purchasing ban haha.

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  9. I ADORED Claire North’s Touch, and I’ve always been curious to try this one! A few of my friends with similar tastes have DNF’ed this one though, so I’v always been a bit hesitant to dive in. What I hear is that she is a great writer but her stories can be very different, and depending on the book it can be hit or miss. I’m glad to hear this worked for you though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to hunt down a copy of Claire North’s other book because this one was so overwhelmingly amazing! Harry August is a bit slow so I can get why people would DNF, but I personally really loved the writing ❤

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  10. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of this one. But damn right you have convinced me to get my grubby paws on it asap. Plus those quotes are gorgeous! The writing sounds marvelous. I’m a bit worried about the slow pace, but I’ll take your word for it that it’s well worth it. It’d be a first to read a book such as this. Wonderful review, lovely Aentee c:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes the fanfiction for this universe just has such immense potential. I need this to blow up and become a huge fandom already haha

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  11. This sounds INCREDIBLE, Aentee and also a little sad that he has to re-live his life so many times. I struggle with books that are slow paced but the story itself sounds interesting enough so I doubt that would be a huge issue for me. And of course you’ve said the magic word to get me to want this book : bromance!
    I love it when a book is able to make you question your life and choices and I’ll admit it’s rare for sci-fi or fantasy to do that but I’m intrigued!
    Lovely review, Aentee and love the graphic! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if you’ll enjoy this one because PACING, and it does lack the crucial romance (I usually would be bored myself, but I somehow loved it!) Thank you, Nick!

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  12. I think I prefer you design to the original cover; it’s just so haunting and elegant. Very thoughtful review, Aentee! I’m not sure this book is for me, but thanks for bringing it to my attention anyway. It was such a pleasure to read your beautiful review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thank you so much Ksenia, Eddie Redmayne’s face improved everything, it is known ❤ I hope you'll get a chance to check the book out 😀

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  13. I bought this book last year and just haven’t pick it up but I keep hearing rave reviews. I feel like this is definitely a book that flew under most people’s radar, which is too bad since it seems amazing. Hmm, if I could relive my life over and over again, I would make sure that I lived in a different country each and every time + picked up a new language.

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