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First 15 Lives of Harry August > General thoughts (spoilers)

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message 1: by North Yorkshire (last edited Jan 30, 2017 06:35AM) (new)

North Yorkshire Libraries | 2 comments Mod
If you've finished reading The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August please post your thoughts below!

message 2: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Jones (matthew_jones) | 49 comments You could easily lop 150 pages out of this and produce a much better book. The premise is a great one, a new twist on the time travel / Groundhog Day idea, but what does the author actually do with it? This recurrent looping of a life had the potential to express powerful emotions and ideas about human mortality, loss and the worth of an individual life. However, engaging sections of narrative were unable to coalesce into a satisfying novel, while tangential incidents could be skimmed with a little too much ease. As a few other reviewers have pointed out, the characters were rather bland and forgettable. The main driver of plot, the “Quantum Mirror”, has the overpowering whiff of McGuffin about it, which is annoying for a device that can unlock time and the meaning of existence. I wanted a little bit more than authorial hand waving basically stating that “science thing is scientific” while Harry faffed about with visas, trains and dying in various tortuous ways. A missed opportunity.

message 3: by Victoria (last edited Mar 19, 2017 06:25AM) (new)

Victoria Turvey-Sauron (radiantwrites) | 53 comments Mod
Frustrating to read. Yes, inevitable comparison of course, but where was the emotional commitment of a Time Traveller's Wife?

Matt Haig is apparently writing a book about time travel and repeating lives, so presumably it's still a 'thing', and I do think Matt Haig can probably pull off some of the emotional crunch I was hoping for and disappointed with here.

Harry is just annoying, wasting the time we're all fantasising about how we'd use, casually learning a few languages, not doing anything inspiring, with such an empty, void, dead way of living his ultra-lives that it's desperately depressing. He's so matter of fact, so "obliging", so "blank" - and when Akinleye finally states that out loud, it's a bit of a relief to find that the author knows this about her creation.

So why is Harry blank? To bounce the other characters off? In that case, why is Vincent, around whom, it turns out, the book is supposed to pivot, also unconvincing and empty? Harry says blankly that if Vincent had wanted to sleep with him he would have - kind of a shame they didn't get it on, as at least perhaps we'd have had a little more of the only real emotion we ever 'get' from Harry, his excitement and pleasure at doing the sciencing. But even the Vincent relationship wasn't really drawn convincingly at the heart of the novel, as when it all ends with Harry's letter to Vincent, showing that apparently the whole novel is a letter to him, all I had left was - really? It was all about Vincent? Well, it certainly wasn't about the various wives who served their various purposes and, despite some attempts to get us to believe he really loved Jenny, don't really ring true. The relationship with Vincent is really the only pleasure Harry gets from life.

So we can't have the Quantum Mirror completed because it will literally end the world, is that it? I'm not really entirely sure, although possibly I just haven't paid enough attention.

Sadly for me, I only have one life, and if I'm going to spend far too many hours of it reading time travel literature, in many ways I'd rather just relive 1993 and watch Groundhog Day again, to see Bill Murray in love and anguish and learning to play the piano in so many convincingly and empathetically human ways. A character that's warm, flawed, ineffably relatable and who thoroughly deserves to get it right.

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