Life After Life

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Blurb:

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.

Goodreads Score:3.74/5

Review:

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.

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Code Name Verity

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Blurb:

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York TimesCode Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

Review:

This book. This book was so good y’all. At first I was a little apprehensive to read it, because I will be honest with you – I am a complete pansy when it comes to reading books where the outcome isn’t assured. It takes me a while to psych myself up for books with plot twists, but I am so so glad that I read Verity.

The book opens with the chilling announcement that Queenie (a civilian ambassador) has sold her country’s secrets for the return of her clothes. From there it turns into a harrowing account of life under her German interrogators and how Queenie struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. I don’t really want to give away much (which makes this review so hard to write, because this book is filled with twists and turns, keeping you on the edge of your seat every minute you read) but I’ll just say this; a new and compelling view into the minds of those who actually suffered under torture during WW2. It flips between Queenie’s life under the germans and her recollections of her best friend Maddie.

The relationship between Queenie and Maddie is one of the greatest parts of this book, and it was so refreshing to read a female driven action and suspense story. I also loved that their relationship was the core of book, as strong female relationships are incredibly important. The memories that Queenie has of her best friend makes the book equal parts melancholy and up-lifting. The descriptions that Queenie gives us are uncompromising and at times extremely uncomfortable, which adds to the impact of the story. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone looking for a suspenseful and riveting read. You might want to keep some tissues nearby though.

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