TITLE: Life After Life
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson
PUBLISHER: Black Swan
GENRE: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult
RATING: 4.5/5 Stars
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
What I Liked:
- I'll start with Atkinson's phenomenal writing style, as it was the first thing that I noticed while reading. Usually I reserve judgement for how well an author can write until at least a few chapters in. This was one of those few books that made me feel totally sucked in within the first couple of paragraphs. Atkinson had a lot of tricky content to deal with here, but she did so effectively and sensitively. The pace was slow and meandering, and yet it was filled with such horrors, happiness and heartbreak and let you properly acknowledge them. And let's not forget about the large dose of good old-fashioned British spirit!
- Considering the nature of the book, I was surprised to find that I loved the characters. After all, there was a huge cast in this one and it changed every time Ursula relived her life. In these instances it is often difficult to connect and yet I found myself rarely getting lost and welcoming each new face, unable to contain my excitement at the potential that there lives could influence Ursula's in a brand new way. Speaking of Ursula, what a heroine! At times she made mistakes, but she learned from them (in her own roundabout way). She developed as a person the more lives that she led and I loved watching her deal with situations differently (sometimes the outcomes were quite humorous).
- I think the biggest thing that I enjoyed about this book was it's ability to make you think. Atkinson introduces a great many characters: none are inherently evil or good, and it is clear that circumstance dictates their actions just as much as personality. I also loved that at first, the 'starting again' came as a relief to me. It was clear that when she was a child, Ursula need only rectify one little thing to make things okay again. As she grew up however, things got a whole lot more complicated, which is true for real life too. Would it be better to go back and change things given the choice? Or should we just let sleeping dogs lie and focus on the future?
What I Disliked:
- This would certainly have received a five star rating, had it not been for the slightly disappointing ending. It was simply not the breathtaking conclusion I had expected it to be. I would have liked to have seen some of the mysteries solved that are introduced at various points of Ursula's life, and yet so many questions are left unanswered. I suppose that's a reflection on life itself too, but was not satisfying to read. It was also the first and only part of the book that left me feeling a bit confused. Exactly what did Ursula do to change things? I couldn't fully get my head around it I'm afraid.
This was book was an absolute masterpiece. It built a very convincing world, full of personality, darkness and moments of ecstasy. Atkinson's writing had me gripped from start to finish and I loved her pacing, which allowed me time to take in what I was reading. By far the most impressive thing was her ability to keep me connected with characters, despite the nature of the book suggesting that I should keep aloof from them all. I was a bit disappointed that the conclusion didn't blow me away like the rest of the book, and the fact that it left me with more questions! Still, there is too much good to ignore in a book such as this and I urge those on the fence to get hold of a copy!