Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Rating: 4 out of 5
As someone who hasn’t read any Kate Atkinson other than the Case Histories books, which I enjoyed, I was keen to try something else by her but different. I knew that’s what this was – different – but not how much until I started reading. That, though, in this case, wasn’t a bad thing for me.
I’ve drafted this review several times since I read the book and have never done what I think is a good enough job describing what it is about. I’ve decided to stop trying as, otherwise, I’ll never end up sharing my thoughts.
In a nutshell, this is the story of Ursula, born in 1910, who lives and dies. And lives and dies. Sometimes, she lives for minutes. Other times, days. Some lifetimes are just that, lifetimes. She grows up, grows old, dies. How many lifetimes she has lived is hard to say. I didn’t count as I was reading but at least ten. With each life, things change. Her family stays the same, her sister Pamela is a constant and her brothers Maurice and Teddy. Her parents too, Sylvie and Hugh. But how their lives turn out alters with each re-living, and not always for the better.
Ursula doesn’t know what is happening, although eventually a sense of deja-vu creeps in, and sometimes her actions change the course of events – deciding to walk down a lane and meet a friend who has previously died for example. And through this runs the story of World War II and how it effects peoples lives. How it affects Ursula’s life and what she does to try and change that – with the little fragments of her past(s) that come to her.
I really enjoyed this book but found it frustrating too as I wanted more of a resolution. I wanted Ursula to remember. To act. Not just be. I suppose that is the point of the book. That life is, and that the slightest decision can alter the course of events dramatically. For all my frustration, I found the writing great and the story drew me along. It was a series of late nights because I wanted to find out what happened next in the book, which I would definitely recommend.