22 January 2014

Review: LIFE AFTER LIFE, Kate Atkinson

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2183 KB
  • Print Length: 545 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316176486
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (March 14, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013.

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third  chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

My Take

LIFE AFTER LIFE is a fascinating novel, almost like a "choose your own adventure" for adults, except the reader does not get to choose what happens to Ursula Todd.

In a number of vignettes, some of which are very short and come to an abrupt end, the author explores the possible lives of Ursula Todd. Many of them hinge on a single choice, once taken impossible to reverse. The choice is often not Ursula's own, but sometimes it is. We've also had that feeling - "if only I'd done that" or "what if I'd done this" - the choice once taken leads down a very different path. 

This is a philosophical question sometimes tackled by historians - what if Germany had won the Great War; what if someone had stopped Hitler at the beginning, and so on. Would history tell the same story?

What Atkinson does is play with questions like these on a more minor level, at the level of e individual person - would the person be happier, would life have been better?

I'm not sure we would know if/when we had "finally got it right". The scenarios played out in LIFE AFTER LIFE seem to say we wouldn't. 

The vignettes are set against life in England and parts of Europe during the Great War, World War II, and later. History marches on seemingly despite what happens to individuals and nations. 

Other interesting philosophical ideas are discussed. Ursula experiences déjà vu, as do most of us at some time. Does that mean she has experienced other lives? Have we been here before?

My first non-crime fiction novel for the year.
A very good read.

My rating: 4.8

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

It sounds a very good read, Kerrie. And Atkinson's the kind of writer who can explore those various possibilities without losing sight of the basic thread.


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