The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

llwdacohmndlqsifnpvwHow would you react if you lived to a ripe old age and passed away…only to regain consciousness as a baby with full memory of your previous life? What if it happened again, and again, and again? What if you learned you weren’t the only one?

That’s the basic concept of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, a wonderful book by Claire North. I devoured it this week, and every chapter made me want more.

I don’t want to discuss the book too much here, lest I spoil anything. But I’m fascinated by the concept.

One thought I had is that I can’t even imagine going through the drudgery of K-12 education again, not to mention puberty.

That said, it would be interesting in some ways to relive my life, especially with some information about the future. We’re not talking about a literal, step-by-step rehash of the same future–it’s just another chance to live your life from start to finish, and the world continues with all of its regular nuances and randomness.

Another thought is how time essentially curves around any person who has this ability. Say there is a person with this ability born in 1850 who lives until 1930, until they start the loop over again. They meet someone in 1920 with the same ability who will live until 1980. That person can tell the older person information about the future, and that person can pass the message down to someone born in 1801, and that person to someone else born in 1750, and so on down through the ages.

The weirdest thing to me is that this is entirely plausible. It’s right in line with my theory of time travel–if you travel back in time, you create an alternate reality that is now the true reality for you. If your brain travels back in time, you’re doing the same thing, and there’s no physical transmission. It’s just information. You and I wouldn’t ever know the difference–we only know this reality–but it seems possible that this could be only one of a number of realities created by people with this ability.

What do you think? Would you want to relive your life again from day one? What would you do?

6 thoughts on “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August”

  1. How do you think this book compares to Replay by Ken Grimwood? I know the main character in that doesn’t start over at birth every time, but the plot seems similar based on your description. I thought Replay was fantastic and I’d be up for reading something else in that same vein.

  2. Sounds like a book I’d enjoy! Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    To answer your question – yes. I think that being able to live forever, with agency over your actions, able to actually change the world around you, is heavenly.

    It might get frustrating if you really managed to change the world around you for the better, only to have it all reset. I imagine that by the 30th lifetime, I’d have built enough experience to really do something notable in the world. To have to ‘start again’ would be frustrating, giving all your endeavours a tone of futility due to impermanence.

    I guess I’d have to really change my mindset, focusing more on myself and seeing the world as an extension of myself. It’d become like an overly-long groundhog day. Some lifetimes, maybe I’d just overindulge and die an early death due to heart problems. Maybe commit suicide in a variety of ways. Maybe I’d become dispassionate, finding out information to use people for whatever means, since I see them as not part of my ongoing long-term reality.

    Maybe I’d become inhuman in some sense of the word.

    Now I’m not 100% sure about the answer to the original question.

    • Bez: That’s a great observation–you would have to watch the world reset every time, no matter how much you try to change it. The book delves deep into that concept.

      I guess it’s kind of like Groundhog Day, isn’t it? But you’re repeating a lifetime instead of a day, and the world doesn’t operate in the exact clockwork manner that it does in Groundhog Day.


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