Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in England 1910. Strangled by the umbilical cord she does not survive. Until she is born again, and dies again, and is born again… Through each of her lives she is born into the same family, and meets many of the same people, but her life is different each time. Plagued by ominous feelings, nightmares, and a sense of déjà vu, Ursula manages to live on a bit longer each time by changing situations and making different choices. You see her as a mother, a friend to Eva Braun, a battered wife, an alcoholic, a warden during the London Blitz, a rape victim, a lover, a friend, a sister, a daughter.
This book reminded me a lot of a choose-your-own-adventure. Remember those from when we were kids? Where every time you made a poor decision and your character died you went back to the decision point and chose differently? While it sounds like it could get monotonous, somehow it did not, instead offering insight into the various aspects of life in England during both world wars, and highlighting the impact that small decisions have on our lives, and on our deaths. In spite of all that Ursula suffers there is also hope, the hope that she will have yet another chance and things will turn out differently. Who among us hasn’t occasionally wished for a chance to foresee the consequences of our actions, to somehow know the wrong path, and to have the chance to go back in time and make it right again?
“No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all; we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.”
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
“I think it would be exhausting.”
Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publication: Reagan Arthur Books, April 2013