Life After Life
Length Of Time In Possession : 4 months
Prior to reading Life After Life the only Kate Atkinson novels I had read were her Jackson Brodie private detective series beginning with Case Histories, a literary spin on the crime genre. I really liked those books, but had not managed to get "into" Behind The Scenes At The Museum when I tried it many, many years ago.
The premise of Life After Life (what if we could do it again and again until we got it right?) proved too enticing to me to resist. Instead of the Buddhist principle of moving from one life to another, this novel has more in common with parallel universe ideas and quantum theory : "Everything that can happen does happen" - the idea that you can go back and change your destiny from the point at which two paths were open to you.
Ursula is born on a snowy night in 1910, the midwife is unable to reach her mother, and Ursula does not survive. The novel rewinds, Ursula is born on a snowy night in 1910, she survives and goes on to grow up with her siblings Maurice and Pamela. At age 5 she drowns. Ursula is born on a snowy night in 1910.....and so on and so forth.
This novel is tremendously interesting : the impact of multiple lives begins to affect Ursula in her "next time around". She does things such as tell the maid Bridget her boyfriend is unfaithful or pushes her down the stairs. She does not know why she does this at the time, but in previous cycles, Bridget's relationship had dire consequences which Ursula instinctively knows she must prevent, but she is not psychic, and only has a vague idea, a deja vu.
Why do we, as people, experience deja vu? What is our mind REALLY trying to tell us? That vague sense of knowledge that we cannot quite grasp.....
There is also the idea that though destinies can change, certain things are set in stone. Elder brother Maurice is never anything more than despised, Auntie Izzy is always "a free spirit", Ursula always has a close bond with younger brother Teddy.
It reminded me about certain comments made in Doctor Who that some events are unalterable, but why them and not all? It's an intriguing question.
Who hasn't thought things like - what if I'd gone to a different university? What if that relationship had succeeded? What if I had been hit by that car that night? What would have changed? Who would I be, and would I still be the same me that I am now?
As a piece of prose the novel I thought this bore most comparison to was The Children's Book by AS Byatt, set within a similar era, a similar family and against the backdrop of history. There the likeness ends as they are very different novels, but I make the reference because I adored The Children's Book and equally loved Life After Life.
I thought this book was beautiful, eloquent and intelligent, both in terms of what it was saying and how it said it. I read this book in two sittings, and in a year when I've struggled to find things I've loved think this may be my book of 2013 thus far. I even wrote a poem inspired by it. Go buy it!
Verdict : 10/10
Destination : Ebook storage