Posted by: billpurdue | March 29, 2015

Living life over – and over – again

I’m sure there are hundreds of novels which take time travel as their theme, but I’ve never come across one quite like this. In “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North, Harry is born in the ladies’ washroom of a railway station in north east England at the end of 1918. His mother dies in childbirth and he is brought up by a couple who work for the local estate of Hulne Hall. What is unusual is that when Harry dies, he is immediately reborn under the same circumstances at the same date and this happens over and over again, although each of his lives takes a quite different course. What’s more, after the first few years of his life, Harry remembers everything from his past lives and so over time accrues an enormous amount of knowledge about the world and particularly world events.

And then there is the Cronus Club. This is an association for all people, who, like Harry, are always reborn immediately after they die in the very same circumstances. The club is a very discreet organization with branches all over the world.

 Harry August

It is at the end of his 11th life that he receives a message from a little girl that the end of the world is getting faster and it’s up to him to do something about it. As Harry lives through his lives again and again, he finds that things like personal computers are coming on the world scene earlier each time. He eventually discovers who is behind the ‘speeding up’ of developments and scientific discoveries. It is a certain Vincent Rankis, whom he first meets punting on the River Cam, but whom he meets in other lives in various parts of the world. Vincent is trying to build what he calls a quantum mirror, which will unlock all the mysteries of the universe.

In future lives, with some co-operation from the Cronus club, Harry makes it his mission to thwart Vincent in his quest and there’s only one way to do it.


The author, Claire North is actually Catherine Webb, formerly a Carnegie Medal nominated author, who has written a number of young adult novels. She was only 14, when she wrote “Mirror Dreams”. Now a new adult novel, a thriller entitled “Touch” about an ancient entity called Kepler, who has the ability to take over someone’s mind and move from one person to another. Kepler uses its power responsibly, but there are others who are determined to destroy it. It was published last month and will delight the fans and no doubt win more of them. She also writes as Kate Griffin.

For a different point of view, go to the ABC Blog (American Book Centre in the Netherlands).

I’m currently reading Barbara Pym’s “Some Tame Gazelle” – amusing and absorbing.

More in a future posting.

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