Why I Read It: This review.
My Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Life After Life is the story–or rather, stories–of Ursula Todd. Ursula, it seems, cannot die. Her first life is over before it begins, as she dies before even taking her first breath. She is reborn moments later to the same family, in the same house, under the same circumstances. As she gets older, she dies and is reborn repeatedly, each new life taking her on a different path–some disastrous, some charmed–giving her a chance, each time, to do it over, to do it right. All that remains of her past lives, each time she is reborn, is a strong sense of déjà vu, a feeling that only grows stronger with time.
My Review: This book was magical. That’s really the only word I can use to accurately described it. It drew me in, absorbed me into Ursula’s world, and I never wanted to leave. It’s stunningly written and filled with the kind of imagery that makes me swoon–Atkinson knows how to turn a phrase like no one else. This book is funny and heartbreaking and gripping all at once, so good that it was truly difficult for me to put it down.
And the story? Well, they say that every story has already been written before. But this was one of the most unique and original stories I’ve read in a long time. Atkinson plays with time, stopping and starting and looping back unexpectedly, leaving you constantly guessing where Ursula would end up next. She explores a central theme of consequence–how the smallest actions can snowball in the largest of ways. Scenarios are replayed over and over, each time with a slight variation that sends it in a completely new direction. This messed with my head a bit–you never really know where you are and it’s hard to keep straight how exactly you got there. Atkinson weaves it together so beautifully, though, that my confusion was worth it in the end.
It left me reeling, unsure of what had actually happened, what was really real. Storylines overlapped and interplayed, characters from each bleeding over into one another, making it difficult to know which pieces fit in where. Some of these pieces of the puzzle were less interesting than others–there were sections that made me cry, and others that had less of an impact–but stepping back and looking at it as a whole, it’s an undeniably powerful (if complex) portrait of a fragmented life.
Should You Read It: Absolutely. It’s an incredible read, and is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.