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This is a very good book.

I must confess I had my doubts at first. I was not convinced by the back cover blurb, or by the early pages of the book. I was strongly reminded of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, which also followed its protagonist through repeated lives. The approach to this was different, a first person telling of intermingled lives, rather than a third-person sequential telling; but the two books seemed to have a lot in common, and as not unusual, the second to be read suffered somewhat from the perceived similarity.

This caused me to read episodically over about four days, which got me half way through the book. Then I paused for a busy weekend. During that pause I mentioned to someone that I was reading the book, and was feeling somewhat detached from it. I wondered aloud whether I would pick it up again. The response was perplexed: my friend thought it an excellent book, and had been gripped throughout. I picked it up again, and given the opportunity for immersive reading, I took it, and finished it. This dispelled my doubts. The second half is richer, stranger, more subdued in tone. It reflects well on the first half, admitting of more ambiguity. It ends well. The more I think about it the more respect I have for this book. North took on a difficult task, to tell this story, and executed that task supremely well.

Harry August tells a terrible tale, enumerating horror across the centuries. Families confuse. Love fails. Friendship betrays. Loyalty destroys. He details some of the nastiest things I have seen depicted outside of Game of Thrones. But he also tells of kindness, of love that endures, of duty met, and friendship that does not fail. And all of this is quite convincing, which is quite a feat.

It is superbly well written. I found myself enjoying particular paragraphs and sentences, and a sly sense of humour: "I would come back here as a tourist and do the things that tourists do, perhaps choosing an affably harmless passport to travel on, such as Norwegian or Danish. Surely even the most vehement of idealogues couldn't find anything wrong with Norway."

In the end I came to think this story is very fine science fiction. I recommend it. 


Caroline M

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October 2017