On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.
Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.
My Rank: 4 cups of coffee
My sister handed me Life After Life saying, “It’s like a video game.” Though that statement might make you blink in bemusement, it is downright true.
This is a book about rebirth. About doing over. About trying to get it right. Ursula keeps dying. But that doesn’t get her down. She just comes right back, born once again on a snowy night in 1910. As she (repeatedly) grows up, she sometimes unknowingly, sometimes purposefully, makes different choices that change her future, sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better.
I really liked it. The story lagged a bit in places, but the writing was deliciously witty and the characters were masterfully crafted. There is a good deal of jumping through time which was rather annoying, but once I figured out where we were in Ursula’s life, I was fine. The ending is one that leaves you with a mixture of feelings. Disturbed, confused, bittersweet? That sounds scarier than it was. It’s just hard to explain without giving too much away, so I’ll leave you with this: if you are fascinated with English history (especially WWII) and enjoy magnificent prose, pick this one up. (It’s like a video game.)
Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness, a conundrum that she couldn’t even begin to solve.
“I feel as if I’m waiting for something dreadful to happen, and then I realize it already has.”
“He was born a politician.”
No, Ursula thought, he was born a baby, like everyone else. And this is what he has chosen to become.
“Why is everything an ‘adventure’ with you?” Sylvie said irritably to Izzie.
“Because life is an adventure, of course.”
“I would say it was more of an endurance race,” Sylvie said. “Or an obstacle course.”