book reviews, books, creative writing, Uncategorized

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

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Claire North has produced a considered, cerebral work that manages to evoke the disconnection of relative immortality and shows a consideration and depth that marks her out as an author worth watching. She takes a fascinating and original concept and follows it’s logic through to a compelling and moving conclusion. She embraces the strangeness of her setting but never forgets that the best stories embody both concept and emotion within them.

Harry August is born and dies in the same body and circumstances, each time recalling the memories of his previous incarnation. His realisation draws him to a society of similarly endowed individuals, rendered both relatable and alien by the considered words of North.  Then he discovers that, in a very real sense, that time is running out for him. He’s drawn into a vicious and deadly rivalry with an unknown opponent. I will not reveal more, because I don’t want to deny you the pleasure that I had, of dipping into this cool lake of a book without any foreknowledge of the beauty that you will experience.

The book uses exposition and research in an assured manner, giving large amounts of details without dragging down the story. It has the sweep of an epic story but manages to feel intimate and humane at the same time in the way that Harry encounters, adjusts and comes to defend the unique individuals that have lived lifetimes with recollection of them.

In it’s third act, North creates an atmosphere of tension and desperation that reminds me of Nick Harkaway’s invention mingled with the delicacy and warm consideration of Neil Gaiman. North is, with her first book, demonstrating a skill and invention that should draw her an audience. She’s got me along for whatever she does next, and I hope that you will pick this book up because it’s quite unlike anything I’ve read in a while and all the better for it. A beautiful, gorgeous book that left me sad and elated by it’s ending.

 

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