Did you ever wondered what would have happened? What course would your life had taken if you'd rented a different apartment or walked home a different way one day? Did you ever have deja vu, where for a second or two, it's like you are watching a film that you've already seen and you know exactly what is about to happen? Kate Atkinson's Life after Life lets us see the varied ways that a life can change after seemingly insignificant actions.
Ursula Todd dies at the moment she is born and is immediately born again into the same life. And so her life goes, and she dies multiple times and returns to the same (yet not the same) life, over and over. She is born into the same family with the same siblings and the same general life circumstances, but each life is a little different, and with each life she becomes more aware of the fact that she has been there before, and eventually she purposely acts to change the course of history.
Ursula is born in 1910 and much of the story takes place during World War II. I have read a lot of books that are set in England during World War II, and of all the books I've read, this is the one that gives the best (and most gruesome) account of what it must have been like to live in London during the blitz.
Atkinson hints that this is happening to Ursula for some higher purpose. More than once, when Ursula apparently has not acted according to the purpose, she's aware of something being "cracked and broken." Or maybe there is no higher purpose and the broken feeling just comes from Ursula's own sense of how things should have happened.
After I read Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, I flagged her as an author to read more of, but Life After Life is the only other Kate Atkinson novel I've read so far. I wouldn't call this a cozy comfort read. There are some idyllic domestic scenes, but parts of the novel are really grim. Still, I found it hard to put down. Life After Life was named by The New York Times as one of the best books of 2013, and there will be a live discussion on March 30th at the Derfwad Manor Book Club.
Usually, I try not to read other reviews before writing one of these posts, but this time I couldn't resist reading a few of the Amazon customer reviews. Most people loved it, but some of the three star reviews brought up valid criticisms.
Have you read this?