August is coming to an end as did the monthly book club choice! To be honest, I cannot say whether I loved or hated this month’s pick… I am still undecided. Has anyone else read Life after Life by Kate Atkinson? I really, really, want to hear your opinions of this book. I am just so torn. On one hand I love it with all my heart, on the other I keep thinking to myself “WTF?” Again, I will try not to give away any spoilers. (But I might have to just so you guys understand how I feel about this novel…)
First of all, the concept of this book is freakin’ brilliant. I applaud you, Kate Atkinson, this is the most original story line I have ever come across. To keep things short and sweet, Ursula Todd, the main character, is reborn over and over every time she dies. She gets to relive important points in history, (she is born in 1910 so lives through both World Wars… again a war book.. whodda thunk it…) learn from her mistakes, fix these mistakes, and grow as a person.
Now when I first heard this I thought “AMAZING!!!!” I was so pumped to read it! I had assumed that Ursula would restart her lives as different people, being born as a baby to a new family, at a different point in time. I thought she would be able to remember what she had learnt in her past lives and grow as a human being in the next life.
WRONG!!! So completely and utterly wrong. So the actually plot of the story threw me for a loop. People get ready for the most intriguing, unique storyline you may have ever read.
Yes, Ursula dies and is “reborn.” Example, Ursula is a young girl playing with her sister at the beach, they wade too far into the ocean, waves crash over their heads, they die. The story then “restarts” a few moments before Ursula’s death (this includes her sister still being alive and well…) with some sort of minor (or major, depending how you view it) difference and she ends up avoiding her doom and continuing her life. There is no rebirth (or is there?) her memory merely restarts moments before she actually dies.
This concept was totally confusing until I figured out what was actually going on. Then, LOOK OUT!!! I ate it up!!! I was totally caught up in Ursula’s world, eager to know when she would die next (morbid?), and how the situation would change to avoid it. The other neat aspect was that she usually ended up saving someone else when she died. Whether it be her sister (at the beach for example) or a friend, a scullery maid, or her father.
But then…. something changed, nearing the last third of the book, Ursula falls into a slump so to speak, and the storyline (for me) runs dry. I found myself thinking “get on with it already, what is the point of this!” And I was completely put off by the book. I didn’t want to finish it, I found my interest in the story had completely ended. But I plugged on, kept reading and then WHAM!!! My mind was completely blown.
Look over at the wall, yeah, see that gross stuff…close to your lamp. Yeah, that’s my brain. MIND BLOWN!!!
Now this is the part where I can’t decide if I like the book or not. The story took a completely different turn than what I was expecting. Again, I thought I knew how it was going to end, but at the same time I HAD NO CLUE! There is a bunch of foreshadowing in this book, so I assumed I knew what Ursula’s end goal was (which I was right about) but then the last PARAGRAPHS (not even chapters) completely threw me for a loop. Now I don’t know if this is me looking too deep into the book or if this is actually what the author intended BUT…..
Please skip this paragraph if you plan on reading the book….unless you want to be fully prepared for the weirdness that is this novel…. I’m sorry, but i just I needed to include this.
The last chapter makes it seem like the entire novel is a THOUGHT in someone else’s mind!!!!!! As if someone sat down at a bar and thought “What would happen if I didn’t show up at this pregnant lady’s house….” And made the whole damn thing up as she sat there drinking hot rum toddies. (Get it!!! TODD-dies…Ursula’s last name and death!!!!)
Those of you who just covered your eyes and plugged your ears may now continue reading. Rant over. Deep breath in. Hold. Release.
So! I definitely think you guys need to read this book. I would love to know what you think of it. Maybe I am the only weirdo who got that ending out of the book. Either way I think Life After Life is beautifully written. You love characters, hate characters, you cry with Ursula, laugh with her. The historical accuracy of this novel is on point. The concept of the novel is brilliant, and for the most part I couldn’t put the book down.
Join me again at the end of September for my next Book Club Review. (that book is still undecided yet as we have not had our group meeting…)