The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

So apologies if people have already seen this but we were chatting a bit in the comments and I was encouraged to post the my thoughts in the proper place. Since no one has posted about this book, which I thought was amazing and we should definitely be chatting about, I decided to go for it! Cut for long ramblings, no major plot spoilers if you havent finished or havent read mostly just general concepts.


As a whole I really loved this book, and there are plenty of things that I would love more information or preferably more stories about!  I am SUPER interested in the entire concept of the kalachakra, the forgetting, the cataclysms and possibly most of all the way they pass messages, it was so clever! This book is also a bit of a mind fuck, which is another reason I really loved it!

For those who didnt read the kalachakra live multiple lives, when they die they start their life again at their moment of birth. They start to remember things from their past life as a toddler, which can be quite traumatic depending on their last life and especially if its their second life, but its established by 7 they can fully regain their memories of their past life. The behaviors Harry described as a toddler from the effects of his previous life were pretty accurate for baby behavior but also very understandable with the story. In one of his early lives he told his wife what he was, after she thought he was crazy he ended up in a mental hospital for awhile and afterwards ended up tortured for information about the future. In the next life he said as a baby his mother said he could never stop crying. Totally understandable to the reader as to why but yet just a fussy baby to the mother.

Messages are passed backwards to elder kalachakras, in the case of the cataclysms its past from child to adult as warning that the world is ending. Usually when they find something out to pass it back forwards they either arrange a meeting (which they will remember once they are 7) or they will leave messages in places usually in stone so it will withstand time, so clever! The passing backwards seems much more complex, plus I feel like with a later plot point it would seem that maybe it implies major trust because if someone goes to an elder kalachakra as a child, it would be much easier to estimate their year of birth which is a huge factor later on! Maybe the child to adult method is only for emergencies? Still as I said though, I feel they would have to trust each other quite a bit!

I also found death super interesting in this book because for all traditional purposes a death for a kalachakra just seems like hitting a reset button, a few times its mentioned that its almost more of a hassle to have to die early and end up as a toddler again. However they arent really immortal. They can still die, a 'true death' and the forgetting. The forgetting itself I find an interesting concept, it wipes someones mind before they die, so when they are reborn they have no idea what they are, who they are and what theyve done. To force a forgetting is considered a huge crime, possibly topped by only true death. For true death to occur a kalachakra must be killed before its ever born, because if their never born they cant be reborn, and the only way to achieve that is for the mother to be murdered. I do kind of love how they consider the forgetting a death, because it kind of raises the question if you arent you anymore are you an entirely new person? I also would love to know what a certain someone did before her first forgetting, and wonder if it has something to do with her second :| By that I mean if they were anything alike, post and preforgetting, did they make the same kind of choices? Did they ultimately become the preforgetting person again? Is that why they forgot in the first place? I did not see that coming by the way!

It seems the only other big no no for a kalachakra is messing with time on a global scale. Massive changes have brought about the cataclysms and prevented the births of many kalachakra from ever taking place, which they mention they considered mass murder. As for the cataclysms themselves, Id love to know more about the way they affected time. It was made pretty apparent of the cause and effect of the last one, and they mentioned brief bits of the second and its punishment but the one kalachakra mentioned that there was one prior that no one remembered. What could it be?

Other than that the only thing I can think of to mention is his different approaches to different lives. There were a few situations, with his birth father especially, that it was great to see how he approached the situation each time, it might not have happened the same way but the outcome usually always happened eventually. It almost kind of seems like they have this like redo button where they can go about situations many different ways, they just might have to wait an entire lifetime to do it again. I did enjoy how after he got in to the groove of coming back every time and he knew what to expect with his mother that he was prepare to help her through everything.


So yeah, thats my huge rambly thoughts! As for dislikes the only thing I really didnt like about this book was how abruptly it ended :( It was a good ending, but damn it I want more! I dont really have much to complain about, Im sure its really obvious I liked a lot about this book! He did live some fabulous lives :)! By the way, did anyone have a favorite kalachakra other than Harry? 
I just finished it too and I have to say I agree with a lot of what you said here. The only gripe I have with it is just the beginning. I admit to feeling lost at first, the author was very drastic in how they wrote ... bouncing back and forth quite a bit... but once the author really got into it, I truly enjoyed the experience.

I am glad you did too!
Yay that you finished it and liked it! Ha ha 95% of this is like exactly the same as what youve already read XD! It was also quite uhh blunt in the beginning about his birth and right away I was like well then... maybe this book isnt for me but Im glad I gave it a shot because now I cant stop recommending it to people!
I just finished it last week and I also agree with most of what you said here. I really enjoyed reading it and my two gripes are 1. with the amount of characters at the beginning, and 2. I did feel as though I should have written time times on paper to remind me of which things happened in which life, but I just had to trust that the author had done that in the planning of the book :)

I had an image of Virginia looking like 'Missy' on Dr Who :)

And I loved Harry and Vincents love/hate friendship

Oh and you mentioned the abrupt ending. I did think that as Vincent and Harry were both so good at lying about their births I did wonder how Harry knew that Vincent had told the truth at that moment, because right up to the last minute Harry had still managed to con Vincent about his own birth.

Overall I loved it and I thought it was a great idea for a story.

I had to look up Missy but yeah I totally get it!

I know! I was kind of bummed when it got to the point where it was like yup its Vincent who is messing things up, that means their going to have to 'deal' with him. I greatly enjoyed there random conversations between lifetimes before they uh discovered each other.

Yeah! That was one thing I really REALLY wanted to know if it panned out! Like what happens if something went wrong OR Vincent really just conned Harry and now he has this huge autobiography of Harry with his exact birth date. I really just want to know if it worked! How did he know he wasnt lying again?!
I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one and agree with a lot of them! I don't think I liked it quite as much because the middle didn't work for me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was all the back and forth between lives and I couldn't keep them straight, but I felt it picked up and the ending was great. Agree that it was kind of abrupt.

Didn't have a favorite kalachakra, but I think I'd be interested in reading the book from the bad guy's point of view! :D
Yeah! It kind of wandered back and forth for awhile but in general I found it interesting to see little bits of other kalachakras hes run in to.

That would be cool! Maybe not from Victors though... things didnt end so well from him and the punishments before they finally killed him sounded horrid!! Id love one from even maybe Vincent or Victoria's in this story alone just to see there thought process!
Id love one from even maybe Vincent or Victoria's in this story alone just to see there thought process!

Definitely!
I am a bit late posting my thoughts on this book (and I haven't even finished reading it yet!), but I thought I'd better do so now before people get cracking with next month's book choices.

I'm enjoying the concept, the world-building, and the mythology that Claire North has created. In particular I like her original take on time-travel in the parallel worlds mode and its potential consequences. I also really appreciated the attention to detail with regard to the many historical periods and countries that the book takes place in.

However, I'm finding the book is really dragging in the middle. I think this is because the non-linear structure is difficult to follow at times, and I'm finding it a bit difficult to really feel a sense of impending crisis, since Harry is essentially hundreds of years old already!
I think thats what appealed most to me in this book was the take on time travel, since its quite restrained but at the same time they have so much potential to pretty much do anything if they really wanted to!

That seems to be the common thought yeah, the middle kind of gets away with itself for a bit. Some of it does end up working its way back into the main story. Some of the times he starts adding up his years it starts to get a bit daunting!