Well, I have to say, the hype is right. The new Kate Atkinson novel, Life After Life, (Doubleday) is just fantastic: innovative, original and beautifully written.
It is such a good read, the story of Ursula Todd who lives her life over and over again. It starts during a snowstorm in England in 1910: a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. Then, during a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale – well, for a few months. Then, during a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale…Ursula lives longer each time, making new choices, learning new things, swept up in, perhaps changing, the events of the turbulent twentieth century.
Atkinson is so good at complicated, real characters and the structure that these ones inhabit is both confronting and fascinating: at first the playing about with life and time is confusing (as with Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife) but just keep reading…
Atkinson’s wit and compassion, her beautifully drawn characters who love, hate and live so vibrantly, and the mystery of Ursula’s many lives keeps you eagerly turning pages to find out what Ursula does next. I read it in one go and tried to delay the inevitable by trying to read more slowly towards the end: I was just so sad when I finished it.
I liked that it was so different from her Jackson Brodie books, which I also love, and I do wonder about what sparked this idea in Atkinson’s mind. She structures the book so well, exploring the themes of chance, fate, destiny and choice while telling a compelling and entertaining story and creating characters you recognise and know.
It has been very popular – we have almost sold out and cannot get more for a couple of weeks, so make sure you reserve a copy. This is one of those books that you will be so pleased to have read: you will likely tremble slightly at the thought that you might not have read it.