Book Review 29: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

6 May

I’m on a roll with reading fantastic novels after a brief detour into nonfiction and a brief detour into some really boring books. Life After Life has a fascinating premise.  This is the story of Ursula Todd’s life, or, more accurately, her many lives.  Each time Ursula dies, she is reincarnated back into her own body, and generally lives a bit longer each time.  Her powerful sense of de ja vu helps her slowly re-correct the course of her life until she finally completes the act she was destined to do.

What’s intrigued me most about the novel was figuring out which life was best for Ursula.  In some of her lives, the tragedies that befall her or the way she dies is so painful, and she seems so unfulfilled, that you’re anxiously turning the pages until she dies, hoping for some relief from the life that has unfolded.  In some lives, her relationships with her family suffer until she’s barely connected to them. In some, her friendships suffer. In some, she finds love, and romance, while in others she ends up alone.

Whichever life you choose depends on what your values are, I suppose. But in the end – you have to wonder the best life was the one in which she fulfills her destiny, or if she was happier when she was fulfilled in other ways. And most importantly, all of her lives feel real – she makes the choices available to a young woman living through WWI and WWI.

My only caveat?

Her destiny, that she ends up fulfilling, is moderately cliche. For a book with such a novel and well executed premise, I sort of wanted Urusla’s life to build up to something novel as well.  The act she ultimately commits has been the subject of 1,000 books before, and will be the subject of 1,000 books after. And if it would’ve happened in real life, it would have changed the course of history and avoided millions and millions of deaths, making it singularly important.  But for the purposes of this book, it felt like Atkinson was writing about well-covered ground.

Even still, Atkinson told the story so wonderfully the ending felt earned. It made sense. Based on her past lives, the experience she’d accumulated, her ability to avoid disaster – the fact that she was able to translate that into avoiding disaster for an entire world, felt true to the cumulative lives and deaths of Urusla.

 

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2 Responses to “Book Review 29: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #29: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson | Cannonball Read V - May 6, 2013

    […] My only caveat? […]

  2. HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #32: The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver | Cannonball Read V - May 27, 2013

    […] to Life After Life, The Post Birthday World also looks at alternate timelines of the protagonist’s life.  Irina […]

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