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20706317What’s it all about?

So Harry August is one of a relatively small group of people who live their lives, die, and are born again in exactly the same place and time, to live more or less the same life all over again. Unlike other forms of reincarnation individuals like Harry remember the details of all of their previous incarnations. While waiting to die at the end of his eleventh life he is visited by a young girl who tells him that the end of the world is coming, faster than expected, and that he is the only person who can do something about it. Cue lives twelve to fifteen.

Why did I want to read it?

I think I must have seen a review or two about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August because I remember downloading it, but unfortunately can’t remember where I heard about it. I know it was a Richard and Judy book thingy choice but I’m pretty sure I found that out afterwards. I decided to read it now because I was due to attend a book event for the launch of Claire North’s new novel, Touch.

What did I think of it?

Quite simply I couldn’t put this down and have been recommending it all over the place since I finished it in the middle of the night last weekend. Harry is a complex character and not entirely likeable I think, though of course you become very attached to him as you live his various lives with him. Seeing how he makes use of his knowledge of the future (only partly to make money on which to live), how he connects with others like himself, the friendships he makes and how he deals with the problem with which he has been presented is just fascinating.

It’s beautifully written, more complex than the structure might suggest, and has a very satisfying conclusion. I don’t want to say too much more about the story than I already have because seeing how it all works out in his various lives is one of the great joys. I will say that to me it shares similar themes with Life After Life, All You Need is Kill and parts of The Bone Clocks, but only tangentially, and is very much it’s own book.

Claire North is really delightful in person, and I had the chance to ask her about the writing of the book and how she kept track of Harry’s lives and in particular what age he was at any particular time; I was thinking wall chart but delighted to find a spreadsheet was deployed. But all of that sits in the background and Harry’s journey is very immediate no matter which of his lives we happen to be visiting at any one time.

I loved this and would urge you to give it a try if you haven’t done so already.

IMG_0205What’s it all about?

The latest novel from David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks is another tour de force of interwoven stories with multiple characters told over several timelines. Ostensibly (mostly) about the life of one woman, Holly Sykes, and the people she meets and forms relationships with throughout her life, it’s also a story of a time war that plays out through the lives of (perhaps not entirely) ordinary people.

Or as I flippantly described it in an earlier post “the one that’s a timey-wimey-metaphysical-thriller”

Why did I want to read it?

I enjoyed Cloud Atlas once I got into it (you can read my review of that here and the film version here) and I always full intended to read more of Mitchell’s work but haven’t got round to it until now. As well as being well-received by reviewers this was long-listed for the Man Booker so a good place to start in catching up with his work.

What did I think of it?

I really loved this, was so happy that my first full novel of the year was such a pleasure. I found it much more readily accessible than Cloud Atlas but I don’t know if that’s just because that I’m more used to the way Mitchell structures his novels, or whether the timeline was just more chronologically straightforward. But the main thing is that I really liked Holly as a character, the strange things that happened to her, and enjoyed waiting to see how (or even whether) she would appear in those sections of the story narrated by other characters.

And there is a such a lot to enjoy; the five narrators who bring their different perspectives to the table, the nature of love and friendships and how they develop and change over time as the same people drift in and out of our lives at key points. And how the connections we make can come back and have an unexpected impact.

The speculative elements of the story – the struggle between two views on how those who are effectively immortal should behave towards others, and the vision of our own world in the near future – worked well and the whole thing is just so beautifully written and constructed that I read it in several enormous chunks as I got sucked in, desperate to know how it would all work out. Very satisfying indeed.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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June 2023