Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
On the cusp of four stars, but something didn’t click for me. The middle 350 pages or so really pulled me in, but I felt that the last 50 pages fell short.
Longer Review (with the mildest of spoilers):
The writing in this book is beautiful. I believe this is the first of Ms. Atkinson’s books I have read, but I gather she is someone known for her prose. The premise of the book, for those who are unfamiliar, is that Ursula is born in February of 1910 in England, and immediately dies. And then she is born again, but something slightly different keeps her alive. This replays over and over again, without any real sort of pattern that I could detect; we don’t always get to a certain age and start over, or always start at the same point, or even necessarily get clued into *exactly* what it is that she may have changed to prevent her death.
Ursula dies at least a couple dozen times if not more, and only a few of the storylines get in-depth treatment. One of the more fascinating stories is of her choosing to marry a German in the early 30s and what that leads to; a different route leads her into a bad marriage. There are also some moments that at the time seem important, but now that the book has ended I can’t figure out what purpose they served (was her mother having an affair in one of the storylines, and did it matter?).
I think the most frustrating component for me was that everything felt like it could be more developed – I wanted to see more connections, learn more about what Ursula was thinking and feeling that lead her to make a shift in her life that prevented her death. I just don’t think we got that, so even though I found myself sucked in, upon reflection I can’t quite recommend it to others.