Life After Life by Kate Atkinson was another Christmas gift. The lengthy novel was published in 2013. Somehow, I missed the debut. But the book is historical and thus timeless, in more ways than one.
The author was creative in the writing approach. The opening has quite a hook. An assassination attempt on Hitler in 1930. Then the story reverts to 1910 and the first birth of the protagonist, Ursula. You read that correctly- first birth. Yet the book is not quite one of reincarnation. More like having multiple do-overs. For the most part, the repeats work.
A Different Look at WWII
Even though the book incorporates both World Wars, the focus is on the second. By giving Ursula do-over lives, the author presents life in both England and Germany. The bombing raids are quite graphic, especially in England as Ursula “lives” as a rescue squad member for a period of time.
Ursula Todd is born multiple times throughout the book. Her memory is special. Moments of Deja vu are the key element of the book. When something terrible happens, death later occurs so that she can “fix” things next time through. But the fixes need fixing. And the author does not hold back in the descriptions of tragedy and tragic lives.
As the novel progresses, Ursula becomes a stronger person. The character is well-developed. Yet some of the tangents are hard to follow. Not emotionally hard, just confusing. Others knock your breath away because of the emotions.
Brutality of War
The secondary theme is the brutality of war. Death is not the only abhorrent outcome. Physical damage to humans and structures are not always repairable. Emotional damage is an even bigger problem. Atkinson does an outstanding job of conveying the horrors. Those who welcome war are truly heinous in nature.
Life After Life Ending
The author does end the story happily. Although there is a hint of repetition, or continuation after the reunion. A ploy to keep the reader wondering.
Life After Life is very complex. The characters do grow through the various reiterations. The ending is satisfactory. But almost a letdown and I am not sure why. Perhaps, I wanted more details of how life continued in the final chapter. For after five hundred pages, I was quite attached to the Todd family.