Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson (2013)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Interest Level: Adult
Life After LifeThis innovative novel explores the life of Ursula Todd, over and over again. Ursula is born during a snowstorm in February 1910. The cord is wrapped around her neck, and she is stillborn. In the next chapter she is born and lives, and we begin learning about her life through two world wars. Atkinson hopscotches through time – back and forth, as Ursula dies in one version and lives in another. She dies from influenza, from falling off a roof, from a bombing, and from starvation. Her brothers and sisters also live and die in various versions, as do others in her life. Always, through, the story moves inexorably toward the Second World War and key events of the 20th century. There’s no perfect life for Ursula, as she lives through both tragedy and joy in all the storylines. Atkinson, who won the Costa (formerly Whitbread) Award for this and her first novel, raises questions about fate and destiny as she introduces characters briefly in one storyline and fully develops them in another. I thought I might get bored by the device, and in truth it’s a wee bit long at nearly 500 pages, but this was more than made up for by compelling writing, authentic relationships and a fascinating speculation of how alternative histories might play out. She did a lot of research, ensuring a narrative faithful to the times. I particularly enjoyed reading about Ursula’s lives led in wartime in both Germany and England. An excellent choice for those who liked The Time Traveler’s Wife.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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