Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors and so when her new book, Life After Life came out it was on my present list for Christmas.
The story follows Ursula from birth to death but with a twist. Whenever she dies, she starts life again and is reborn over and over again into the same life, same year, until she has a happy ending. Ursula is born in 1910 and within the first few lines she dies due to being stillborn. But then we are taken back to her being born again in 1910 and living for a little longer. This story is full of Ursula’s repeats in life and to be honest she was a very unlucky girl as a lot of tragedies happened. But her life continued to improve everytime she was reborn and she learnt from her mistakes through sensing danger or as we would call it ‘gut feeling’. Ursula’s story takes us from 1910 through to 1967.
Along the way we meet so many characters – her loving family, her aunt Izzie, nasty Derek, endearing Miss Woolf and Crighton during World War two, and German friends including Hitler’s partner Eva Braun to name a few. Not to mention Hitler himself who she tried to kill! Ursula herself isn’t a character I really felt an emotional bond with but I really liked some of the characters she met along the way. Her brother Teddy in particular and I think this was because Ursula herself was very close to him.
This story is captivating and there were some really emotional parts that made me feel for the characters. The story with Derek was very emotional as was the time Ursula was in Germany during the war and also when Ursula is a pregnant teenager.
But this story also has a lot of historical content and it really makes you think about some of the issues Ursula encounters during the years and appreciate things a lot more. Kate creates the awful Blitz era for us in detail and we learn a lot about the APR wardens who had a vital role at that time. It really brings home what people went through back then. Also for me the most touching chapters were near the end. The chapter called ‘The End of the Beginning’ was so clever as it ran through Ursula’s life quickly again but as a summary of the perfect life after she learnt from her mistakes form previous lives. The other chapter called ‘The Broad Sunlit Uplands’ brought a happy tear to my eye – you will have to read it to find out why as I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and I think Kate has written the unique concept of living the same life over and over again brilliantly. If you like historical fiction with emotion, love and a variety of characters then I recommend this book.
Have you read of Kate Atkinson’s books?