Sunday, January 12, 2014

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

This book was really weird.  It intrigued me so I kept reading it, but in the end I don't think I liked it.  The book centres on Ursula Todd, a baby born, or in some versions born dead, on a snowy night in 1910.  The story keeps going back and forth and changing the details.  So, in the first instance Ursula is born without a doctor and strangled by her umbilical cord, so dead.  In subsequent versions the doctor makes it through the snow on time and Ursula is saved from the cord.

This type of thing happens repeatedly, she dies or does not die from drowning at age 4, she dies or does not die from the influenza outbreak in 1918, she dies or does not die in various bombing scenarios during the London Blitz.  It is not only her life or death which varies - she is in one version raped at age 18 which tarnishes her for life.  In another she is not and goes on to live a normal life.  In one version she goes to Germany after University and ends up marrying and having a daughter and living through World War II there.  There she befriends Eva Braun and in some versions manages to assassinate Hitler before the War begins.  In most versions she lives out the war in London, never marries or has children though engages in a series of affairs.  In one version she does marry an abusive husband in England and dies at his hand.  The lives of Ursula's parents, aunt, siblings and friends are also taken to different conclusions in the different stories.

The whole book is somewhat confusing though I guess explores how one moment can change the course of your life and the lives of others.  As I said at the start the story is intriguing though strange. I certainly only recommend reading it if you can read it over a short time span because otherwise it would become extremely hard to keep track of the varying characters and story lines.

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