March 21

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you got it right?

Well, I think you would end up rather confused and exhausted, because that is how I felt just reading about Ursula and her reincarnations in Life after Life. Completely and utterly knackered and bamboozled!!    Living once can take it out of you, so imagine doing it again. And again. AND again!

And you can never get it right, can you?  You just go on and on and on – as does this book.

Don’t get me wrong.  I did not dislike it but I am not sure I liked it either ….(See, I warned you I  was confused!).  I certainly liked parts of it.  Very much. I thought some of the writing was fantastic. But for a lot of it, I had to re-read great wads of it to figure out which life we were up too.

Ursula’s story begins when she is born. Then she dies. Then she is born.  And so it goes. The date is 11 February 1910.  You follow her growing up in country England with her family – a well meaning, colourful bunch.  She lives. She dies.  She lives again and rights some dreadful situations along with way.

Much of the story resides in the years before & during the second world war and Ursula finds herself – in one or two of her lives – in cahoots with Eva Braun and Hitler.  What would you do if you knew of the horror he would cause and you were up close and personal to him?  Pretty much what she did I suspect.

The storytelling about the war, the bombings in London, life in Germany and all the people impacted by this atrocious war is wonderfully detailed and evocative.  It is great writing and these were my favourite pages.  It is brilliant stuff. But then Ursula bloody goes and dies and you have to start again. I’m sorry if I sound tuckered out by it all – it is simply that I am.

So despite this rather odd little review, pop it on your book club list – it’s worth it I promise.  It is a complex tale so will give you ample book club fodder to chew, debate and contemplate the ‘what-if’ scenarios of your lives.  Some of you will absolutely love it (which means you will be with the hundreds of literary types who fell over themselves to give it rave reviews!) and some of you might feel like me … dazed and in need of a good stiff drink.

And that, my friends, is my two cents worth.