Monday, 8 April 2013

Life after life by Kate Atkinson

Ever had that feeling of déjà vu? Atkinson’s latest wee gem of a novel explores that sense of re-living past events, or past lives, in the present.

Middle class Ursula Todd is born near London in 1910 (several times, in fact!), and lives through the Second World War. Or does she? Throughout the many re-runs of her life something happens that enables her to start again and we see the impact of her making different choices and sometimes influencing events or people around her in ways that she was unable to the last time around. She often experiences that sense of knowing something, without understanding how or why she knows it. As the reader, we understand both how and why she experiences that sense of déjà vu. Atkinson’s skill as a writer is that these re-runs of Ursula’s life don’t feel artificial, or tedious – in each scenario Ursula’s character development is consistent and satisfying.

Before you think of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, this is nothing at all like that - for a start, time is comparatively linear and one-dimensional. In Life after life, Ursula constantly re-lives her life to get past the point which she stopped living last time. The different choices and her vague awareness that she has been here before give each life a richness and intensity and sustain our interest to see how things will pan out this time around.

This is no hard-going treatise on reincarnation, but a thoroughly enjoyable, even humorous, novel featuring a well-developed and constantly evolving main character, supported by well-drawn characters and scenarios from the period. It gets a big thumbs-up from me!

Posted by Flappy Jandals

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Life after life by Kate Atkinson, 2013

About the Author

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind The Scenes At The Museum and has been a critically acclaimed international author ever since. Her bestselling novels featuring the former private detective Jackson Brodie, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog, have been adapted into a successful BBC TV series. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List. From the Publishers

Kate Atkinson's official website

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