Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Our bookclub was chosen to receive advance copies of this book from the publisher but we didn’t expect a 500+ page book so that was off-putting right away for some but once you get past the first 100 pages it was a fast read.
This book started out slow for me the first 100 pages I was confused then all of a sudden I couldn't put this book down and I think it took me as long to read the last 400 pages as it did to read the first 100. There are times this book is confusing and I can see how people would give up on it but I am really glad I had to read this for bookclub so I didn’t give up after my usual 50-100 pages because that is when it gets good!
I really liked Ursula in all her different “lives”. She didn’t always make the wisest decisions but that is the crux of this book it is the different paths your life can take, if you do this then this is how your life will go and if you turn the other way and change that decision then this is what could happen. I also liked the family story we get to know the Todd’s is so many different ways because of the different decisions made by Ursula, and how her decisions affect what happens to others. I also got a kick out of Aunt Izzie she was a fun character.
The storyline’s about England during WWII are amazing you really get a feel of what it was like while the bombs are going off, the dust and dirt and coming around a corner to find a familiar street totally unrecognizable, when she was working as a relief worker helping find and identify the victims were heartbreaking and had such a real feel. Ursula never really has very good taste in men no matter if it is a husband, lover or passing dalliance, I felt she was actually her happiest when she was living on her own.(Well most of the time, there is the gas incident).
As Ursula goes through life again and again she does have hazy memories more a déjà vu at times, other times just a feeling of dread, and sometime a straight up knowing of what will happen if certain events take place, yes I’m looking at you Bridget please don’t go to the fair! (Or her let’s kill Hitler phase) But she never fully realizes what is happening or why she sees the things she does or feels what she does about certain events. Each of her “lives” is varied some she dies young, some she has a husband and children, some she lives out a longer life and some of her “deaths” will shock you when the repeats start you almost feel like you are the one having déjà vu. I will say though that some of the stories start and it’s almost suspenseful as you wait to see how she dies this time.
I actually liked that the author didn’t fully explain what was happening to Ursula, be it reincarnation, déjà vu, past life or whatever you think it may be. I also am left wondering if her mother Sylvie wasn’t going through a similar “life”.
This book is one that I think will stay with you long after you read it, I am done now but still thinking of Ursula. I would recommend hanging in there if the first 100 pages are getting you down because once you get over that hump then it will really grab you! Kate Atkinson has written a fascinating, unique book that I think is deserving of all the buzz it is getting, just know this is very different than the Jackson Brodie series.