Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Reading Assignment: Life after Life

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?

10 comments:

  1. Loved it and I think she's an impeccable writer.

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  2. This sounds very interesting!

    Have you read any of Jennifer's Worth's "Call the Midwife" books? Their her memoirs of like as a nurse midwife in the east end of London in the 50s. This was a part of London that was affectedly greatly by the Blitz and was still reeling from the effects 10 years later.

    Even if you aren't into all the mom and baby stuff, it's a really fascinating personal account of life there at that time in history. Shadows of the Workhouse spends the most time describing life, etc. (if I'm remembering correctly); Call the Midwife will be more moms and babies stuff. Love all those books and enjoyed the PBS series too.

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    1. I haven't read or seen Call the Midwife, but it is on my list!

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  3. And sorry for all the typos...must take a typing class one day and/or learn to proofread!

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  4. Loved it. She's one of my faves. I've read all her books - this on in particular, I read in one day and when I finished it, I started over again.

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    1. This ONE in particular, not on. Geez.

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  5. I adore her. I got hooked on Case Histories and never looked back. I devoured this book. I don't think it's perfect, but I still loved it.

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  6. This is my first Kate Atkinson and I was quite taken with it. I liked that the narrative doubled back over events with Ursula in a different role. I agree it was good at getting you to understand what life in the Blitz was like.

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  7. I read it early for the Derfwad book club and I really liked it. I hope to read more from this author.
    I read another book, The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Sisters, around the same time frame and was impressed with accurate historical portrayal in Life After Life.

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