Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Summary: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, 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. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.

Review: It's been about a week since I finished this book, and I finally feel like I have enough distance to talk about it.

It's a beautiful book. It's extremely well thought-out, and very skillfully written. The story is incredibly complex, and I have to give Atkinson props for keeping it all straight.

I have a couple of things to talk about-- I feel like the summary gives the promise of closure for the book, which the book then fails to deliver. The teaser at the beginning of the novel also did that, but I liked where she took it later on.

Also, I'm super bummed about Ursula's search for love. Clearly it's not as high a priority for Ursula herself, and this book also doesn't have ANY examples of actual True Love (except with Ursula's siblings -- the only constant is how close she is with her older sister and younger brother), but I was always waiting for her to fall in love and stay in love. Although that's also the point of the book, I think -- nothing's forever.

My other big issue was the fact that it's set, for the most part, during World War II. I'm just not that into stories about WWII -- that doesn't make me a bad person, does it? It's not that they're not interesting, because they are, but I'm just not that into them.

[SPOILER] I do have one more spoilerly thing to talk about -- I saw a theory on Goodreads that I really liked, that says that maybe her mother can start over again like Ursula can, and she can remember her past lives sometimes, too. Because of the part at the end where she says, Practice makes perfect. I really like that idea, because it explains how Ursula's not the only thing that changes every time-- outside factors are affected by other people having more chances as well. Although that sends me down a depressing theological rabbit-hole when I contemplate that Atkinson seems to be saying that we all just repeat our lives-- what, forever and ever? There's no end, just this, always? Ugh, it makes me tired just to think about. (PS, if other people besides Ursula could remember past lives the way she could, don't you think there would be a huge mob at the hospital the day Hitler was born? It reminds me of Asimov's idea that if time travel were possible we'd be surrounded by tourists from the future.)[/SPOILER]

Anyway, clearly this book gave me a lot to think about.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, funny, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious, snark-attack, thought-provoking


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