Tuesday, March 5, 2013

life after life

On a snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born in her family's home in the English countryside. Moments later, she dies. But Ursula Todd is not an ordinary child. Her life rewinds and she is born again on that same night in 1910. This process of rebirth happens again and again throughout Ursula's life. She dies repeatedly in many different waysdrowning, illness, a fall, suicide, etc.and each time, we go back to that snowy night. However, as she dies and begins again, bits of her past lives remain in Ursula's memory. She doesn't understand them, but they compel her to make changes in her life that will help her avoid death. We follow Ursula through all of these deaths and rebirths (I wish I'd kept a list, honestly, as it does get a little confusing), waiting, it seems, for her to finally "get it right." 

It's a brilliant idea, obviously. And while I've never read Atkinson before now, I hear she has a reputation for such brilliant writing. Her fans seem incredibly devoted and enthused with her, and I predict that once I get my hands on more of her books, I'll soon join their ranks. The concept behind Life After Life is fantastic and Atkinson is a wonderful writer. She throws in entertaining one-liners in unexpected places and she clearly has a gift for the conception/organization of unique novels.

I only wish that this book had been a little more clear. Because while I really enjoyed it, I was also confused sometimes, especially near the end. (P.S. If anyone really knows what was going on there, please leave a comment or message me! I didn't understand the inclusion of the last scene, especially). It would have been nice if Ursula's lives had been labeled (Life #1, Life #2, etc.) or maybe I really should have kept notes. Sometimes I'd lose myself and forget if a plot point had happened in this life or the last. And there are numerous characters who appear sporadically and briefly but are mentioned often, and every time I'd have to rack my brain for their presence in Ursula's lives. 

Finally, I wish I'd liked or felt more connected to Ursula. Although she is the main character and we follow her through numerous lives, I didn't really feel I knew her. She's a plain character with a weak voice (in my opinion), and I wish she'd had as much personality as, say, her parents, Sylvie and Hugh. 

Regardless, I did really enjoy this and I'm incredibly excited to read more of Atkinson's work.

TITLE: Life After Life
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson
DATE FINISHED: 3 March 2013
VERDICT: 3.75/5 stars. Loved the idea, liked the execution.

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