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, the third child of a wealthy 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 any number of ways. Ursula’s world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization — if only she has the chance?
Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.
I was somewhat disappointed by this book, to be honest. After hearing raving reviews from friends, and intrigued by the plot (time travel? WW2? Y’all know that’s my jam) I decided to pick up Atkinson’s latest work and give it a go.
It was…long. I don’t remember really enjoying anything about the book. I just remember thinking that I had to work my way through it, because there had to be a reason that everyone loved it so much. Now – don’t get me wrong. Atkinson is extremely gifted with the written word, and her lyrical prose is probably what kept me trying to read on. There are several chapters that were like honey to my eyes (which is a weird sentence) and I liked the recurring theme of the snowy night, but overall her book was lacking for me, plot wise. The end just had nothing to it, which was frustrating after such an impactful beginning. I felt like I had literally clawed my way through this (frequently depressing and confusing) story only to wind up even more frustrated. Because I am not ashamed to admit it. I just didn’t get the ending.
I thought that the biggest hang up for this book was the time travel element. The characters were all so fragmented (even the sister, who is ostensibly a main character) and I couldn’t get a feel for the main character. Likewise, some of Ursula’s lives were far too long, whilst others were too short. I felt like half the time I was reading something that could have been edited out and I would not have missed it. All in all, not a great thing for me to think while I’m reading a book.
Life After Life is simply an interesting idea that was poorly executed. While Atkinson’s lyrical prose definitely save this book, the dead characters and meandering chapters don’t help the floundering plot line.