Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
published by Little, Brown, and Co.
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 satisfaction. (from Goodreads)
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
I heard so much about this book, that I was very excited to read it. While I thought the writing was terrific, in the end, I did not love the story. Ursula lives many lives. The first time she is born, the doctor is not there due to a bad snowstorm and she dies when the umbilical chord is wrapped around her neck. In the next chapter, the doctor arrives in time.The baby survives. “She observed the turn of seasons for the first time. She was born with winter already in her bones, but then came the sharp promise of spring, the fattening of the buds, the indolent heat of summer, the mould and mushroom of autumn.” She survives a few years, until she drown in the ocean with her sister Pamela. In the following chapter, a gentleman, who happens to be on the beach painting, saves their lives. Thie is the flow of the book, how small chances and choices affect our entire lives. Ursula is then possessed with a sixth sense for danger- a sort of deja vu.
I enjoyed reading the book very much, but had a feeling of frustration for Ursula. I wanted her to be happy, and never sensed she was. This sense of sadness struck me-“She had had affairs over the years … but she had never been pregnant, never been a mother or a wife and it was only when she realized that it was too late, that it could never be, that she understood what it was that she had lost. Pamela’s life would go on after she was dead, her descendants spreading through the world like the waters of a delta, but when Ursula died she would simply end. A stream that ran dry.”
I would recommend reading this book. It was a first rate example of what historical fiction should be. The writing was really wonderful, and many people loved the story.
Rating- 3.5 out of 5