I picked up Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” very reluctantly. Actually, I picked it up several months ago and quickly put it back on the bookstore shelf. It kept poking into my life though. I saw friends mention it on Twitter and found it on a handful of must-read lists.
My reluctance grew from my limited knowledge of the plot. A baby girl is stillborn in England in the early 1900s. Then she is born again and dies a bit later and is born another time and so on. I didn’t want to read a novel about the life that a stillborn baby might have had. No escapism there. I spend plenty of time thinking about that already.
Despite that, I read the book. I loved the book. Ursula, the protagonist, has a strong sense of deja vu, and with each successive life, she tries to correct past problems. She lives through both world wars and encounters a handful of horrid men, so there’s plenty for her to improve. Some of Ursula’s deaths upset me. At other times, her life looked so dire that I rooted for her to die.
Atkinson does toy with the truth. There were major events in Ursula’s childhood that changed over the course of the book, and I wasn’t sure whether those events really changed or whether she became more fully aware of the events of her childhood. Either possibility was plausible.
What I liked about the book was that none of Ursula’s lives were perfect. She learned from the past but still made mistakes. In some cases, she confronted problems that didn’t have a good answer. It was a good reminder that sometimes we need to quit stewing, make a cup of tea, and get on with life. The British setting didn’t hurt either and definitely made the characters more endearing to me.
I’ve been a bookworm this summer. I’m in the middle of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts,” and I’ll probably have plenty to say about that when I finish. That sentence wasn’t meant to be ironic.