Claire North has followed up her debut novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, with another beautifully written tale of intrigue and fantasy. In Touch there are ghosts among the population – spirits whose souls escaped their bodies at the time of death and can now move from person to person at the slightest touch. However, someone knows about them and has begun hunting these beings – someone who doesn’t care if innocent mortals are killed in the process.
While The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August told the story of a man living the same life over and over again, the main character of Touch – known as “Kepler” though we’re never given his (or her) real name – has been alive and jumping from body to body for centuries. North’s writing style is very evident throughout Touch. Much like Harry August, the novel is told from the first person with frequent flashbacks to other times, and other bodies the narrator has inhabited.
What makes Touch unique – not just from North’s previous novel, but from many novels in general – is that the reader never really knows who the narrator is. We are never given Kepler’s real name or even original gender. He/She travels from body to body with no apparent preference for male or female. At first I really wanted to know who Kepler had been when he/she had been alive, but by the end of the book that no longer mattered; Kepler was Kepler.
I loved North’s writing style – it’s so fluid. There were several times when she described Kepler moving from body to body in a quick chain of succession and the way she described it was so interesting, not just in word choice, but structure:
I am hungry
and now I am full,
desperate to pee by the carriage window
eating crisps in the seat by the door.
I wear silk.
I wear nylon.
And on it goes. North frequently uses new paragraphs to denote the change from one body to another – even mid-sentence – which helps to create the transition, and allows the reader to feel the abruptness of the switch that the skins feel. It’s a great effect, and shows just how much thought North has put into telling her story.
If you enjoyed The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, then you will definitely enjoy this book. There are a lot of similarities in the writing style, but teh story is different enough for it to stand alone. If, like me, you loved Harry August but the science aspects were sometimes a little over your head, then you will love this book. It has all the best qualities of Harry August and an equally compelling plot, without the science to wrap your head around.