Friday, June 30, 2017

Life After Life (...after life after life....): A review with heavy spoilers.

Ursula Todd arrives to share a meal with Adolf Hitler in 1930 Germany. She manages to kill him and is then subsequently killed by his men.

Ursula Todd is born in 1910 to a wealthy English family and dies the same day, having been strangled by her umbilical cord. Ursula Todd is born in 1910 to a wealthy English family and her life is saved by a doctor who is able to cut the umbilical cord that is strangling her. She later dies at age four in a drowning accident. Ursula Todd survives a near drowning accident and later dies after falling out of a window....

Such is the unraveling of "Life After Life" the gorgeous novel by Kate Atkinson. We are taken on a beautiful and unique journey through Ursula's life, and its many permutations. Ursula has the ability to live her life many times, changing her decisions and altering her fate many times over. Living in the midst of a Europe enduring two devastating wars, influenza outbreaks and massive social upheaval, Ursula has the remarkable opportunity to steer the course of history, both for her own life and for the future of humanity. How will she choose what to change?

I am an Atkinson novice but, after reading this, I'm devoted. She has managed to take a strange and difficult premise and craft a thoroughly engrossing story, complete with gorgeous language and vivid description. Reading such an epic story that spans decades, involves death and war and a complex plot requires such a delicate balance and a heroine that is interesting and sympathetic. Ursula is a deeply relatable character and once I got into the rhythm and strangeness of her predicament, I was all in and genuinely cared about what choices she would make. I wasn't even mad at the Hitler/Eva Braun storyline because Atkinson handled that masterfully.

This is a book that passed me by for a few years, despite the fact that everyone and their sister recommended it to me. I think I was intimidated but I wish I hadn't been. It is a masterpiece. I selected this book for a book discussion and I'm extremely curious as to what the reaction will be. It strikes me that this is a book one will either love or be confused by. I'm okay with it being a little of both.

I recommend this book to fans of sweeping epics, time travel, alternate histories, historical fiction, speculative fiction, literary fiction... actually I recommend it to everyone. Read this!

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