Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 431
Source: e-galley provided by publisher through NetGalley

The Short Version:
Ursula Todd is born, dies and born again many many times and along the way experience the major events of the early 1900’s from multiple perspectives.

Why I Read It:
I had seen so many early reviews that simply raved about this book and declared it a best of 2013 early on. Despite my issues with Atkinson’s first two books I decided to give her another shot.

The Book:
It would be too easy to get confused and convoluted if I tries to talk about the plot so I’m just going to use the publisher’s description.

From the Publisher:

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she?

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

My Thoughts:
I’m glad I decided to give Kate Atkinson another try. I had heard so many people I trust say this was an excellent book. I’ll admit that I thought it was good but not quite excellent for me. It did manage to get me past my Kate Atkinson block. I’d read her first two books several years ago and didn’t’ really like either one. I haven’t read any of her Jackson Brodie series but I’m likely to give them a try now.

This one has some elements in common with her early books such as childhood deaths. Precocious main characters and time shifts. For some reason it all managed to work better for me in this book than in those early efforts.

What I liked best about this book was that the premise allowed Ursula to experience major events in history from multiple viewpoints and changing outcomes.

There were definitely moments of dark humor. A section about the 1918 influenza epidemic actually provided some of the funniest parts of the book.

What I thought would be the ending turned out to not be the end. After thinking about it for a few days I decided that it made sense and in some ways made the book both more hopeful and more sad all at the same time.

My recommendation if you read this is to pay close attention to the dates and flip back to the table of contents to reorient yourself in the multiple timelines if necessary.

4 stars Rating 4/5