What if we had a chance to do it again and again,
until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
First Published: 2013
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars (average rating on Goodreads: 3:76)
I would recommend this book to: Readers interested in the everyday life in England and Germany before and during WWII
The Beginning: A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the café.
My favorite quote: Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness.
Remember those children’s books where you could shape the story by choosing different paths for the characters? I LOVED them! Life After Life is a little bit like that. We follow Ursula who lives her life again and again. When she dies (and she dies a lot!), the clock simply rewinds and she starts over, only remembering glimpses of her past lives as strong déjà vus that guide her to alter her path.
Sometimes it was harder to change the past than it was the future.
We follow her different choices and how they affect her life and character as her life is repeated between the wars and during WWII. It’s an interesting setting for storytelling, and this part of our history should be told again and again. In Life After Life, it’s literally told again and again. I found this way of exploring a life and the way our choices or lack of choices affect us fun and different.
“Hindsight’s a wonderful thing,” Klara said.
“If we all had it there would be no history to write about”.
But for me, something was missing. Neither Ursula nor the plot(s) were that special. In fact, I found myself bored through many chapters – they just dragged on and on. I found the novel a bit clichéd, and I wasn’t impressed by what Atkinson got out of the life relived-style. It’s an OK story, but nothing more.
If you’re interested in alternative ways of telling a story and stories that play around with time, I would suggest reading The Time Traveler’s Wife instead. And if you’re interested everyday life between and during the wars, I highly recommend Ursula Hegi’s Stones From the River.
One thing I really have to praise: My version of Life After Life has a very beautiful cover. It was a pleasure to carry around with me, to pick it up and leaf through the pages. Yes, I’m superficial, but the cover matters a lot to me.