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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Narrated by: Peter Kenny
Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6,940 ratings)
Regular price: $28.50
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Publisher's Summary

Some stories cannot be told in just one lifetime.

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 11th 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.

©2014 Claire North (P)2014 Hachette Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    3,943
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Performance

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Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • 2 Stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Stefanie
  • Annandale, VA, United States
  • 08-24-15

An unexpected treasure

Any additional comments?

I bought this book solely based on the ratings. It was a little slow getting started, but holy cow did it make up for lost time. The story was unique and fantastic, and the narration was one of the best I've heard so far. The narrator could convincingly sound like a young boy, or an old woman dying of pneumonia, and anywhere in between. Just spectacular. There were times when I couldn't understand him, no matter how many times I repeated the section, due to the speedy dialogue, but that didn't detract from the overall performance or story. If I could give this book 10 stars overall, I would.

238 of 242 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Not what I'd feared

As you are, I'm a person who reads the reviews to see if I should invest in a book. I put this book low on my wishlist because it sounded interesting but the words "tough to read" and "sociopath" and "couldn't like the characters" kept popping up in the reviews. It should have been a little higher up on my wishlist. While I'm glad I was pre-warned that there was a lot of gruesome violence in the book (there is) and that the characters are generally callous and frequently cruel people (they are), these aspects made sense for the premise of the book. If death means nothing to you why would you care if you committed suicide by rat poison? If you live the same life over and over for hundreds of years, how could the "linears" (normal people) become anything other than paper dolls for you to play with? Once I situated the characters in their culture rather than my culture I was definitely able to understand their motivations and empathize with them.

I mean, prrrroooobably don't read this book if you're in a very fragile emotional/mental health state. Like, if the characters in The Girl on the Train or Skippy Dies effed you up, this isn't the book for you. Otherwise, it's a pretty cool book. I enjoyed that the author was brave enough to make the characters the people they would logically have been, given the situation they were placed in. I also enjoyed the general sci-fi, time travel premise because I can't really say that I've seen this particular concept before. There were a lot of cool new ideas in here about the nature of time, memory, destiny, self-determination, and the things that make humans themselves.

570 of 583 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Time Travel Brilliance

Juggling fifteen lives in a single book is a recipe for confusion, but Claire North does it brilliantly. While it is somewhat like "Groundhog Day" on a lifetime scale, the storyline and underlying meanings are totally different. This book is perfect for the many people who wonder what they would do different if they had their lives to live over. As Claire North brings out, finding true purpose in a recurring life where death becomes a coping strategy, requires significant emotional intelligence. Who ever thought these themes could be so entertaining. Once you get started, be prepared to be stuck to your headphones for the duration.

39 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Misleading reviews

Where does The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Excellent.

Who was your favorite character and why?
Harry August (main character)

What about Peter Kenny’s performance did you like?
His voice brought all the characters to life. What I found most enjoyable was how he managed to find dialectic accents and hold them accurately without issue.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
My reaction was not to the book itself but the misleading reviews which made me so reluctant to buy this book. I heard again and again "Violent," yet in truth this book held no more violence than common television series today. There are moments where the visceral truth of the character's reality is clearly described.

Any additional comments?
I am sensitive to violence, either spoken, written, or portrayed. I've been known to get up and leave the room when character seem in imminent danger of being killed. I've had to stop listening to audio books with similar description.

That being said, I found myself completely able to follow this book without adverse reaction. I had no severe negative reactions of the nature to this work. I must say that all those reviews that speak of violence were overstated. I regret not purchasing this book sooner. It was seriously well performed, well written piece of fiction. I am considering more works by this author based on the level of quality I encountered with this title

Bottom line. If you like this genre, but have hesitated to buy this book based on reviews, Ignore the negative reviews, buy it, give "The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August," a fair chance. If you really hate it it's returnable. I've had to do that with a few books in past. I will never return this title, ever. It is a very excellent narrative read by a person whose voice matched the characters very well.
#TimeTravelPast #UnlikelyHero #Violent #Clever #Underdog
#Tagsgiving #Sweepstakes

220 of 226 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing

I consider myself a hard critic. I don't hand out 5 star reviews lightly. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a solid 5 stars.

This book is as close to sci-fi perfection as I have encountered in the last decade. It combines a very interesting concept (1 in 500,000 people live over and over again), a good mystery (for some reason the world is ending), and first rate characters (August and one other).

The bad guy here, the interaction of August and the person he is tracking down is first class. I don't think I have ever been so in touch with a villain before.

The back story is mesmerizing. Enough detail to put you into the characters point of view, not enough to stifle a quick read.

Claire North is awesome. I can't wait to dive into her other books.

60 of 61 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Russell
  • Keswick, ON, Canada
  • 11-01-16

It Took Fifteen Lives to Resolve an Epic Battle

If you got fifteen repeats on your life while remembering the previous ones, how different would they be? Harry went through the same era from the early 1900's to as late as the early 2000's as a scientist, adventurer, lawyer and even an investigator of all the world religions.

He is able to remember everything and encounters others like him who have organized a club to make sure no one like them changes major events. That can have disastrous results for all of humanity and drastic measures are required for those who try. Usually it requires communicating with someone from a previous era to make sure that person is never born.The Cronus club can do this with a seven year old member telling an eighty year old member about a threat to the world. They will take the appropriate corrective action in their next life.

Harry meets one of those who wish to reshape the world they live in. Victor becomes his best friend and eventually his worst enemy. Victor is able to decimate the Cronus club and embark on a journey over many repeat lives to artificially advance science. His ultimate goal is to build a quantum mirror which he hopes will explain everything. Either that, or it will be the end of everybody's world.

They go through a marathon battle.

There are a lot interesting concepts here and I was enthralled from the first life to the final one. If you enjoyed the book Replay by Ken Grimwood, you will love this adventure. It has similarities, yet it is a vastly different story.

I usually like to put to an effort into posting a review of only great reads, so my history of mainly five stars may be tedious for some. I kind of feel like the guy always crying wolf, and when the wolf finally comes, no one pays attention.

So here is my sixth star for this book. Overall ******

115 of 121 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 02-01-18

Intelligent, Complex, With Lots of Entertainment

This is not what I think of when I hear a book is 'science fiction'. No outer space, no military battles, no monsters. This is a very intelligently written story about a man, Harry August, who dies and returns to repeat his life over and over again with a full memory of his past lives. Harry was not particularly pleased with this fact but was powerless to stop the process. Eventually, he learned there were other Kalachakra who had the same condition. Harry tried out many different lifestyles, none of which were worth repeating in their entirety. Things moved along with no momentous events until Harry met a great friend who was also Kalachakra but who subsequently became his greatest enemy. Could Harry save the world?

Yes, this theme has been written before but not with all the interesting twists and turns. The book somewhat reminded me of The Goldfinch, which I loved. The stories were not really similar but something really reminded me of it. It had a wonderful narration like The Goldfinch, amazing you could say. It grabbed me in the same way. (I really don't like to compare books, but I am doing it in this case, as it might help you decide to give Harry a chance.)

TFFLofHA started off a bit slow, as setting the scene can sometimes do. It picked up its pace fairly quickly and I could not put it down. I really enjoyed how it played out to a satisfying ending.

Yes, there is some real brutality and violence in the story and if you are very sensitive to this, you might want to pass. But if you are adventurous and like new and novel stories with interesting time travel ideas, this could be your next listen. I loved it.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Harry's 15 lives were far from magical/enjoyable

Maybe I was expecting too much from this book based on all the five star reviews, but I was overall, uninspired by it. First of all, while the audiobook narrator was fantastic, and all of the distinct voices and dialects really helped me get a little more into the story, I would not recommend listening to this on audiobook, at least not if it's your first read-through. I found myself needing to skip back 30 seconds or a couple of minutes way more than a normal audiobook, just to figure out what had just happened. Usually that was more because of the author's roundabout way of getting her point across vs anything surprising/exciting happening.

Honestly, I wasn't really interested in a single thing that happened until maybe the just last 1/4 of the book. I read several reviews that said something similar, but they were able to get past the fact that the first 300 pages were somewhat boring based on the fact that the ending was good. To me, to make a book truly noteworthy, far more of it needs to be readable and enticing. I kept waiting for certain events to come back into play that just never did. I know they all affected Harry and his psyche and his way of viewing the world, but I expected them to have more lasting impact on the overall story.

The ending was good, don't get me wrong; but much of what came before was unremarkable and probably could have been far more whittled down with the same amount of payoff at the end. I did enjoy some of the writing style, like how she switched back and forth between all of Harry's different lives and decades without too much confusion from the reader. However, I just did not come away from this dying to share the experience with someone else ( which I always want to do with books that make me think or excite me) and I would not recommend this to my other avid-reader friends.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • DarthVal
  • Hickory, NC, United States
  • 12-14-15

Put me in mind of Life after Life

This is another one of those books that slowly builds until it sneaks up on you. Early on, I gave serious consideration to giving up on it. In addition to slowly laying the framework of the story, North uses a circular narrative pattern to which it takes some adjusting.

As the title suggests, this is the story Harry August. At least, it is the story of his first fifteen lives. Harry is a unique being who not only possesses perfect recall, but he also relives the same life over and over. Well, it is the same and it isn't. But, I'll let Ms. North explain that to you.

There are a couple of things about this type of story that can make things tedious; repetition and exposition to explain what is happening. As a result, the interesting and exciting parts of the book often get bogged down as the author has to fall back on one or both of these elements. Unfortunately, they are a necessary part of the story.

The concept itself is interesting, but not overly original. It felt a lot like the reading of Life After Life. I think my final verdict is that it is a good story, but not great.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Can I give it 3.5 Stars?

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I am a sucker for both time travel and replayed life stories. Not the Scottish romance in time variety, but this Groundhog Day concept fascinates me. I try to read them all. I enjoyed this book on this level, and appreciated the wrinkle of the premise... that we all relive our lives again and again, but that through an evolutionary or other cause, most now forget those past experiences, while a few remember them... and thus become the guardians of the planet in a way. They have a chance, through the repeats, to correct wrongs. Of course, villains also emerge who would use the repeat opportunities for their own personal gain or to amass power.

I liked the premise, and for the most part the execution, but I found the book a little tedious and repetitive in places. That, coupled with the lack of variation in voices, actually forced me to go back and repeat several chapters of the book to be sure I was following the story. Some questions went unanswered, some lines were less than satisfactory, but it was a nice addition to the body of this genre, overall.

25 of 29 people found this review helpful