What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
I don’t often do this with a book I’ve reviewed but I do want to flag this one up to you again. I wasn’t surprised to see Life After Life by Kate Atkinson on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist yesterday because something rather peculiar has happened since reading the book in February. I’ve fallen more in love with it.
I borrowed a whole stack of books from the library last week while I was ill just to dip into, to see if anything could hold my attention while I was bundled up under a duvet drinking endless honey, lemon and ginger. And I abandoned book after book wishing they were as compelling as this one. If that’s not a sign of a good book’s reach, I don’t know what is.
In my original review I said:
In conclusion, this is an unusual and strangely haunting read, well worth braving the hype I expect it to generate for. Atkinson’s scenes in World War Two London are extraordinarily vivid and hit the perfect note between history and storytelling, there’s good drama throughout (especially in the later stages where you feel you know the characters) and it’ll keep you thinking about Ursula’s options and choices long after you close the final page. It’s not flawless but very, very enjoyably human.
(You can read my whole review here)
Of course I meant it when I wrote it a month ago but honestly, I had no idea just how long it would haunt me (in a good way!) as a reader. It’s gone on sale today so hopefully I can start talking about it with other readers in the next couple of weeks because honestly, I really want to debate some of the plot twists and the choices Ursula makes.
Since I wrote my review I’ve started dipping into Atkinson’s back catalogue (halfway through Human Croquet and enjoying it greatly) and I’ve discovered that she’s speaking about Life After Life tomorrow at Huddersfield Literature Festival. Huddersfield is only a short train ride away from my home here in Leeds so I’ve got a ticket and hopefully I can ask her a couple of my most pressing questions there… ;)