Review: Life After Life

Life After Life
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew this to be a sf-ish time traveling-like story, but I hadn’t really known what to expect. What I was sure I didn’t expect was a pretty excellently written story, and my excellently written I mean the writing is excellent. That’s not saying other books I had in my head was poorly written (books such as the excellent Niffenegger’s Time Traveller’s Wife, or the excellent Grimwood’s Replay), but this was the more literary of the lot.

Ursula Todd relives her lives over and over upon her death, each time gaining that subtle hint of premonition, an unexplained foreshadowing, that compels her to make decisions at pivotal moments of her life that alters the lives she had led before. Times when she previously drowned, or contracted the Spanish flu, or raped, or died in a blitz in both England and Germany. All of which leads her to realize the incredible devastation brought on by WWII, on both sides of the war, that culminates in her compulsion to kill Hitler before the onset of the war.

There were points in the book that made me truly angry, something no book has done in recent memory. I was truly angry at Derek’s abusive treatment of Ursula. I was angry at how Ursula was somehow convinced it was her fault she was sexually abused, and how others viewed her negatively even though she was the victim of a crime.

This reminds me of why we read sometimes, to gain a perspective that you’d never otherwise get if you’re knee-deep in some conviction that the way one sees the world is the only one true, *correct* perspective. Where else but literature could do this?

I also realized something, most of my recent favourites have been books related to WWII. Codename Verify, Mother Night, Night and now this one. The book I’m lapping now, Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is also WWII-related. For someone who has never liked war stories, what does this tell me?

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