The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, written by Catherine Webb under the pen name Claire North, is a fantasy novel with a distinct sci-fi air, exploring the moral and logical dilemmas of changing a past timeline in unique association with the idea of rebirth. Readers follow titular protagonist Harry August as he discovers and grapples with the implications of his true nature in his first few lives and later witness a possibly world-altering conflict emerge, one that seems up to Harry himself to solve.

This novel ought not to be mistaken for a simple tale; it is not a suitable novel for the idle reader. Now that you have completed it and had time to thoroughly think about and comprehend the story, complete this assignment in order to help further your understanding of the novel to a new degree.


In the Process tab, click on and view/read the first hyperlink (skimming may suffice for some of the longer texts, but don't hesitate to look back to any links if you feel you need more information) before answering all questions associated with it. Then move onto the second hyperlink and questions associated with it. Continue until you complete the assignment.

Complete at least the specified number of sentences required for each question (using full sentences), and be sure to check the Evaluation tab for further grading points.


1. What effect has the concept of rebirth or reincarnation had on world history? Relate your answer to modern times. You may use prior knowledge or use the resource hyperlinks provided. (3 sentences)

2. What role does the rebirth Harry and other kalachakras experience play in the plot? You must elaborate beyond the obvious. (2 sentences)

3. What comparisons can be made between the term "kalachakra" in Buddhism and in the novel? (3 sentences) (keep in mind the setting for this link) (specifically pay attention to child suicides during the setting of the novel)

4. Having read these articles, what more can you ascertain about Harry's young suicide in his second life? (1 sentence)

5. What does Harry's reaction to Vincent's first attempted Forgetting on him say about the status of electroshock therapy during this general time period (remember that Vincent had access to technology ahead of his time as well)? Refer to hyperlinks for further support. (2 sentences)

6. Combining what the hyperlinks say with what is shown in TFFLHA, what do you know about mental facilities at the time the novel took place? (3 sentences)

7. How would you say that Harry's adoptive parents - Patrick and Harriet - were characterized? Why do you think they were characterized the way they were? (3 sentences)

8. What commentary can you make on the rape of Elizabeth Leadmill (Harry's biological mother) with consideration to the time it occurred? Specifically, how do you think an accusation would have been received? (2 sentences)

9. How might Harry's life have been different had he been raised the child of Elizabeth Leadmill (assuming for the sake of argument that in no timeline would Rory Hulne have wanted any sort of connection with Harry)? (2 sentences) (watch video and read text)

10. What effects did the early industrialization caused by Vincent in TFFLHA have on society as well as the world? How do these relate to modern times? (3 sentences)

11. In Chapter 68 of TFFLHA, Harry writes that "the society of 1953 processed the technology of 1960." In what ways did this 7-year gap affect society? (2 sentences)

12. Why do you think Harry decided to join the press while pursuing Vincent after he was pretending to have Forgotten? (1 sentence)


While the specific content of some answers may vary for each individual, students must complete the following for all answers:

  • utilize full sentences and correct grammatical structure
  • fully answer all parts of the question in no less than the specified number of sentences
  • demonstrate an understanding of the purpose of the hyperlink
  • demonstrate completion and understanding of the reading material

The teacher will have an answer guide to evaluate each question specifically.


This novel is certainly one packed with significance beyond the story it tells. We have explored many of the themes behind the tale itself, including the presence of the media and historical context to help give more meaning and depth to the story. Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is one to mull over and think about.

Teacher Page

1. Students should discuss at least one item from each column:

- the historical spread of religions containing reincarnation and its effect - the use of rebirth and reincarnation in modern fictional media
- the presence of reincarnation in multiple religions due to historical religious trade - the place that religions containing reincarnation have in modern society

2. Students should discuss at least one of the following ideas: free will, emotional stability, mental health, emotional rebirth, personal versus public ethics, or the implications of larger consequences.

3. Students should discuss at least two of the following:

  • kalachakra is a concept in Buddhism but a type of person (debatably species) in TFFLHA
  • kalachakras in TFFLHA are a physical embodiment of the concept of cycles in Buddhism
  • both relate to or deal with natural cycles of time

4. Students should discuss at least one of the following:

  • it was likely just as much the result of a poor mental healthcare system as it was his own personal confusion
  • child suicide wasn't necessarily uncommon at the time

5. Students should discuss at least one of the following:

  • the violent reactions (convulsions, etc.) that electroshock therapy caused, even more prominent in earlier years
  • the use of electroshock therapy in treating mental illness, likely why it caused the Forgetting in normal ouroborans in the first place

6. Students should discuss at least two of the following:

  • mental facilities were particularly inhumane to their inmates (without legal repercussion)
  • the medical rules and regulations (regarding patient rights, prescriptions, etc.) that we see now were not in place, at least not nearly as soundly as they are today
  • the death rates of these facilities were very high

7. Students should make a reasonable conclusion about the characterization of Patrick and Harriet (such as that while sometimes cold, both clearly loved Harry or that Patrick's various relationships with Harry later in their lives revealed certain aspects of his character) and additionally discuss at least one of the following about why they were characterized as such:

  • to illustrate the bond between adopted family, even in imperfect circumstances
  • to develop Harry's character through his relationships to such important people in his young and adult life/lives

8. Students' views may vary, but arguments should make logical sense and refer in some way to the linked page.

9. Students should recognize that Harry's life would have been much more negative in the care of his biological mother. Additional support and discussion should be present but must only be logical to pass.

10. Students should discuss at least two of the following effects of Vincent's forced industrialization:

  • ideas build off of one another extremely quickly
  • society (science, medicine, industry, etc.) develops arguably too quickly as a result of these rapid ideas
  • nature deteriorates even sooner and faster than it would normally

11. Students should recognize and make an argument for in some way that the public wasn't ready for the developments it saw. Additional support should be logical and ought to be taken from the book (doesn't necessarily need a citation).

12. Students should discuss that the media has a great influence on politics, which would have allowed Harry to meet with Vincent more easily. Additional evidence is not strictly necessary.