Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013, 8:34 am
Beautifully written. Makes me go "hmmm," in the best possible way.
In Kate Atkinson's inventive Life After Life, Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in England, 1910, only to promptly die. But the story doesn't end there. The same Ursula is born that night and lives, and ends up living many different lives.
Picture many threads all spooling out from the same fixed point, some tangling up with other threads and some tugged in completely different directions. That's sort of how the plot(s) shape(s) up. Some storylines find Ursula living an almost identical life to the previous one, and some have her making wildly different choices. At one point she makes friends with Eva Braun, but you'll have to read the book to find out how that pans out.
Beyond the intriguing premise, what really makes this a stand-out is Atkinson's gorgeous prose. From the rambling English countryside to a devastated, war-torn London, the landscapes are skillfully rendered, and the characters are no less so. It all comes together into a pretty transcendent book that will have you pondering the nature of time, death, war, family and, ultimately, what our lives truly mean. It's big, heady stuff, but Atkinson will draw you in like a close friend and make you feel right at home.