The library book discussion I run was lucky enough to receive galley copies of Life After Life, the highly anticipated novel by author Kate Atkinson that is due out at the beginning of April. Although the author is known for her Jackson Brodie mystery series, this title is a stand alone novel, dealing with the main character Ursula Todd, who dies and is reborn throughout the book. Ursula and her family live in the countryside of England and the story takes place in the early-mid 20th century as the servant class is fading and women are gaining a sense of independence. With over 500 pages, this book is not a quick read, and the reader must get used to the “rhythm” of living and dying that occur in the book. It is not a spoiler alert to let the reader know that the novel begins with Ursula attempting to shoot Adolf Hitler with her father’s old revolver. As emotionally gripping as that is, the reader becomes absorbed with Ursula as she struggles in the circle of life, from infant to adulthood, to live her life over and over and which constantly changes throughout the book based upon circumstance, deja vu and fate. I will not go into the details about all her lives, but Atkinson gives an amazing depiction of life of London during the Blitz which stands out as a particularly vivid segment of the book.
The back of my book has a statement, “What if you could live again, until you got it right?” I feel that the question is misleading because each life Ursula lives is different and not necessarily the “right” life. It is no surprise to me that Atkinson, known as a post modern novelist, has hints of Nietzsche, Keats and Lewis Carroll in a book that begs to be examined again and again. Life After Life is not an easy read, but for those who are persistent and read through the reward will be a book that will linger in the reader’s mind for a long time.