Life after Life by Kate Atkinson – Book Review

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Published by Reagan Arthur Books, an imprint of Hachette

It is 1910 and one of the snowiest nights in memory in England when Ursula Todd is born. Unfortunately, little Ursula is not long for this world, dying almost before her mother even realizes she has been born. Luckily for Ursula, she is born again, the same day to the same family, and this time with another result. So Ursula is born time and time again, as she succumbs to the perils of early 20th-cenutry life but is repeatedly granted another chance, as if her life is building towards some grand purpose.

So, basically Life After Life is brilliant. It isn’t immediately apparent, especially as the child Ursula dies repeatedly. The first hundred pages or so can be difficult for parents, as it almost seems a catalog of everything bad that can happen to a kid. It is when the Spanish Flu hits Ursula’s household that Atkinson’s dark comic genius shines through. It is also at this time that the reader realizes that Ursula is semi-aware of what is happening to her. From that point forward, Ursula dies with a little less frequency and the intricacies of cause and effect are writ large on her life.

To call Life After Life an absorbing book would be to undersell it. It is an astonishingly good novel, one I could not stop talking about during and after reading it. It is also an innovative look at the way our choices – as well as events beyond our control – shape our lives, and how the smallest change can make a huge difference.

Life After Life is the book that everyone is going to be talking about for the rest of the year, and it absolutely deserves that honor. Very highly recommended.

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