Monday, May 20, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

"What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?"

That's the premise in Kate Atkinson's thought-provoking novel, Life After Life. Ursula Todd is born on a snowy February night in 1910... over and over. Sometimes her life is very short and sometimes it is long, but she always starts back at the same beginning, in the same English family. Nebulous wisps of her previous lifetimes remain with Ursula, overlaid like a palimpsest. In every life, we make choices. Is it possible to always choose correctly? What if you had the opportunity to prevent World War II? Would you do it?

It was serendipitous that I chose to read this while I also had A Tale for the Time Being audiobook on the go. Both novels play the concept of time, so perhaps less surprising is that they both bring Marcel Proust's work into their narratives. (In Life After Life, Ursula's 'shelter book' during the London blitz in 1940 is Du cote de chez Swann.) We all want to know where the time goes. How intriguing it would be to manipulate time to our advantage!

Readalikes: A Tale for the Time Being (Ruth Ozeki); Blackout and All Clear (Connie Willis); The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger); I Killed Adolf Hilter (Jason); and When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead).

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