[453]: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Bond Street Books | Hardcover, 544 pages | Published: April 2nd, 2013 | Adult Fiction | Historical | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Ursula Todd died at birth; she strangled from her own umbilical cord.

The next scene played out like the last. Only this time, baby Ursula lived.

Ursula Todd grew up. When she was five, she fell out from the window trying to save her precious doll.

The next scene played out after her birth (she lived).

When she was eight, influenza ravaged much of England. She contacted the disease from Bridget, their servant. She died.

The next scene began again before she got sick.

This time, she knew what to do. She must stay away from Bridget who’d come back from attending the armistice festivities already infected.

She did. But Teddy, the youngest, found his way in Bridget’s room. She had no choice but to fetch him. She contacted the disease.

She died.

The next scene began again before she got sick.

This time, she knew it was Bridget she had to stop. So she tripped her and caused an injury. But an ankle sprain did not stop Bridget from going.

Darkness came for Ursula again.

She died.

And so on…and so forth.

This is Ursula’s life, recycled over and over again. She lived every time she died. And every time she lived, she’d try to prevent things from happening. She’d changed things to dictate the outcome. But for someone who saw the future, her life was far from perfect, nor could she stop the horrors that befall her family.

She didn’t live forever, I don’t think. Because the ending was vague. I’d rather not know, actually. I’d rather draw my own conclusion.

This book is bleak; for every death is difficult to read than the last.

We see her get sexually assaulted, which began the darkest period of her life. In that era, who would want a damaged girl? So she clung to the first man who’d ever shown her affection. A mistake. She died in the hands of an abusive husband.

We also see her amongst Hitler’s people. Which was, quite possibly the second hardest thing I had to read. She had a daughter.

Oh and the things she had to do to save her…

This is about reincarnation, told during the most difficult of times. It’s not for the faint of heart, and not because it’s gruesome (though some scenes were). In a way, Kate Atkinson wrote versions of Ursula’s life. One with varied endings that catered to her readers. Regardless of how it turned out, I was blown away. The research, the thought, the structure of this story took my breath away.