Post Script: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Claire North

Redhook Books


ISBN: 9780316399616



Harry August is on his deathbed. Again.

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.

Until now.

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.



My View:

I really enjoyed the premise of this book Harry August is born, lives and dies and is born again – this novel discusses the ageless questions about rebirth/literally being born again/the meaning of life and death… all questions I have posed myself at some point in my early life. On another level the discussion about responsibility for actions/war crimes/violence is prominently on the agenda and shouts “Stop blaming the victim.” This novel can open up a lot of frank discussions; hidden in this work of fiction are many opportunities for deep philosophical debates and that I applaud.


One of the most significant comments in this book comes from Sophia –a prostitute- when discussing with Harry the purpose of life she states: “You talk about decent people living decent lives, as if that doesn’t mean anything, like it’s not a big deal. But you listen – this ‘decent’, it is the only thing that matters…I don’t care if you cure ageing, or stop starvation or end nuclear wars, if you forget this – “ she rapped her knuckles against my forehead “-or this- “ pressed her palm against my chest “- because even then if you save everyone else, you’ll be dead inside. Men must be decent first and brilliant later, otherwise you are no helping people, just servicing the machine.” Amazing observations.


Again another point of ethics is brilliantly showcased in this narrative – the matter of torture, specifically Harry is being tortured for information re his birth details, and as the orchestrator of this atrocity leaves the room, he states this is all Harry’s fault, he says “Please don’t make me.” Harry replies, “I’m not making you…the decision is entirely yours. I’d just like to clear myself of any moral responsibility for that particular act before you do it.” So salient.


And the one luminous point this book shouts –one person can make a difference! I think we all need to be reminded of this now and then.


On a number of levels I really enjoyed the debate this narrative allowed however my interest purely as a reader was tested several times…at times the story is so repetitive my eyes glazed over…I was lost…I skipped over pages…I know this is the nature of this narrative, the repetition but I think it went on a little too long.




8 thoughts on “Post Script: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

  1. Carol – As always, I appreciate your candor about this one very much. The premise is really interesting, and I like the overall message. Not sure I’ll try it, to be perfectly frank, but I’m happy to hear of a ‘not cardboard cutout’ book.

    • Margot – I do think the hype about this book spoilt the read for me…I was expecting so much more…I don’t know what more – but something…but then I am just one reader, one reviewer, I have seen mixed reviews on this one…and it did have some redeeming features.

  2. Funnily enough, the first thought that came to my mind was Life After Life, too – which I also decided not to read because of the repetitiveness. That would probably stop me reading this one too (well, that and the torture!) though I’ve seen some very positive reviews of it too.

  3. Hi! I just happened upon your blog as I was searching for bookgroup questions for my group. We are reading the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. I loved the book but will be curious what the rest of the group thought. Do you list all of your books that you’ve reviewed somewhere so I can see what else you are reading? Love getting good ideas for the next book!
    I’ll keep you updated on what’s popular in Seattle WA!

    • Hi Beth
      The only list as such will be in the archives or Good Reads or The Reading Room. The Harry August book should provide plenty of material for debate in a book group. ( Try The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes for your group – it is fantastic – review due closer to publication)

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