Life After Life is a book that I had no knowledge of before purchasing it. The description intrigued me enough to buy it there and then. What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? Atkinson’s book follows Ursula Todd throughout her many lives. The lives she lives over and over again trying to get it right. You follow her on her many paths watching her choices, her mistakes and how different paths can still lead to the same place. The novel starts in 1910 as Ursula is born and follows through her childhood and much of her adult life, focusing on the years of WWII.
This book is highly unique in its delivery. You live Ursula’s lives over and over again. Resetting each time she slips up and the darkness closes in. Funnily enough, I found the style reminiscent of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. The books you would read over and over again in your childhood. Starting back at the beginning each time you hit a dead end, striving to make it through unscathed. I have to admit, it got a little wearing at the beginning when her lives were often short and you found yourself back in the snow repeatedly, reliving the same scenes again quite quickly. Just as it was starting to really grate me, Atkinson eases on the early childhood and you start living Ursula’s adult lives often admits the war. From there I found the book intriguing and moved my way through the first half quite quickly.
Atkinson’s way of telling this story was superb. There was no mythical mumbo-jumbo or fluffy predicability. Ursula’s deaths are explained simply and concisely. Her foresight or feelings of unease in particular situations are well written and quite natural. There is an amount of foresight that you encounter at times but it is kept understated and does not take over the plot. It allows the reader to focus on her lives as she lives each one, while quietly wondering where the paths would differ, where they would lead. The opening passage gives you a hint of where the book will ultimately lead, which opens up another interesting idea proposed by Atkinson. How different would history be if you erased one prolific figure? Something to leave you pondering even after the story is finished.
The characters that Atkinson described were all interesting and vibrant. Ursula was a pleasurable experience for a narrator. She was bright, engaging, interesting and most of all I found seeing all her different selves, depending on her path, quite fascinating. I fund it really highlights how much a certain event can have lasting effects on a person. Izzie was another highlight. Irresponsible, impulsive but a great laugh. She is a bit of a train wreck of a character, but one you love despite it all. The rest of the Todd family are intriguing characters (apart from the dreaded Maurice, whom no one likes) that you don’t learn enough about. They each are alluded to being quite multi-faceted, however, this is not explored in the book and you are left wanting more. Atkinson has written a companion novel, A God In Ruins, following Ursula’s beloved brother Teddy if you want more of the Todd family. I think this one will be added to my TBR list.
Overall, Life After Life is an interesting read. It is unique, insightful and delves into some great concepts that leave you plenty to ponder once you have concluded the story. I give Life After Life three bunnies, rescued by Ursula’s foresight.