One of the best things about reading is finding an unexpected gem. Discovering authors you’ve never read before and then falling into their imagination like Alice down the rabbit hole.
For me, Kate Atkinson is one such author. I’d never read anything of hers before but the whole idea of Life After Life caught my attention.
If you were given the opportunity to live your time again how many chances would it take to get it right? One, two, ten? Would you learn from your mistakes? What would you do differently? Would you change direction and explore a different path? Would you try to change your own destiny or that of someone else? And when your past foretells the world’s future do you have a right to try to change it?
Life After Life is the reoccurring, ever changing story of one young woman’s journey as she lives through the major events of the twentieth century.
“Don’t you wonder sometimes, if just one small thing had been changed in the past, surely things would be different.”
Ursula Todd is born during a terrible snow storm in 1910 and dies before taking her first breath, the doctor has no time to reach her. Turn the page and Ursula Todd is born again in the same snow storm in 1910 and lives. Thus starts the pattern of Ursula’s life. And death. And life again.
Throughout her story Ursula’s life ends in numerous ways; drowning and falling from the attic roof as a child to being shot and buried under the rubble of a bomb blast as an adult. But Ursula’s unique gift means she is also given an infinite number of chances to live her life over with the hope, that this time, she will get it right.
As Ursula haltingly travels down the many avenues her life takes after death; that of a quiet little girl, an odd young woman, a battered wife, a German citizen on the cusp of WW2, a mistress, a mother, an ARP warden at the heart of the Blitz and a single, independent government worker she demonstrates how one choice, one decision and one moment in time can mean the difference between living and dying, and the power that these moments have to change everything. The past. The present. And the future.
Life After Life is an incredibly clever, well written, thought provoking book. Atkinson takes the ‘ground hog day’ idea and works it into something brilliant. Having never read anything quite like this before I was wondering what to expect but Atkinson certainly doesn’t disappoint with her unique plot line, skilful structure and engaging characters.
On hearing of the premise of this book you could be forgiven for thinking that the repetitious nature of the story will be confusing or even boring but you couldn’t be more wrong. It is exactly this aspect of the plot that makes it so interesting and remarkable. As soon as darkness falls and Ursula’s life ends at the end of one chapter, you can’t wait to turn the page and find out how she will live again in the next.
This is just one of those books which requires the reader to give it a chance. As soon as you get an understanding of the pattern of the story you are quickly drawn in to Ursula’s (unconventional) life and that of her family. You get to know those people closest to her and experience some of the most turbulent, world changing social events of the twentieth century.
Inventive, imaginative, descriptive and intelligent this is a book that will stay with you long after reading the last page. If you had a second chance what would you do differently? If you were given more time could you put things right? If you had the foresight and an opportunity to change it could you alter the course of history?
From one book lover to another I would strongly recommend you read this book, I know I’ll be going back to read it again.
Bookworm Business: Have you read Life After Life? Are you already a fan of Kate Atkinson? Let me know! Will you be giving this book a go?