Five words from the blurb: born, lives, change, chances, destiny
Life After Life is getting rave reviews everywhere. I’ve seen more people declare it as their “book of the year (so far)” than any other title. I loved the concept and with all the buzz I was expecting to enjoy it. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I found it repetitive and I couldn’t engage with the central character, Ursula, at all.
The book begins well, with Ursula shooting Hitler. It then jumps back in time to Ursula’s birth, but Ursula doesn’t survive. In a strange twist of events Ursula is born again and this time survives. Ursula continues to die at regular intervals, each time being reborn, living slightly longer, and learning from past events.
Unfortunately I couldn’t connect with the the format. Every time Ursula died I groaned inside. I found the repetition of each scene irritating and even though new details were added each time there was more to annoy me than entertain. It could be down to the fact I’ve never had much success with this type of structure – The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver also annoyed me.
Another problem was that the fragmented nature of the plot meant I struggled to become emotionally attached to Ursula. The fact she kept being reborn also meant each tragedy had an increasingly small impact on me.
On a positive note, the writing quality was good – a big improvement from When Will There Be Good News?, the only other book by Kate Atkinson that I’ve read.
Due to the volume of glowing reviews I persevered with this book for longer than I normally would, giving up after 175 pages. I seem to be the only one who didn’t fall in love with Life After Life so please don’t take my word for it. Give it a try!
The thoughts of other bloggers:
Every little detail has a purpose, every single decision was made for a reason and carried a particular consequence. The Pretty Good Gatsby
…the structure, rather than create difficulties or disjointedness in the reader’s understanding, brings us to a deeper knowledge of Ursula and her motives. The Writes of Woman
…one of the most extraordinary books you’ll read this year. Alex in Leeds