Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Again and again and again…

This decidedly weird book by Kate Atkinson takes non-consecutive story telling to an entirely new level. Here, (and people who can’t abide any hint of what they are about to read, look away now – in other words: spoiler alert) the heroine, Ursula, lives, then dies, many times over. Her life span is longer in each incarnation and wildly different events befall her each time. It took me a while to realise what was happening, because, to confuse things, the author jumbles time periods constantly; so you’re back to when she’s newborn, then projected to a different telling of the time when she was a teenager, you’re in different places for the same young woman and generally constantly tossed around. Actually, the thorough confusion and the fact that I read this book a few weeks ago mean that I have just had to check what the “ending” is. Ah yes, I remember now…
Ursula is English, born in 1910 and lives, or not, according to where you are in the novel, through two world wars, violence of a more domestic kind, including a peacetime murder in the village or wife beating and more day-to-day activities such as holidays by the sea, studying or working. She lives with a rather prickly mother, a doting father, a nice brother, a nice sister, a nasty brother, a wicked aunt, and also friends, a couple of lovers, a husband and acquaintances. You get used to a place (a flat in London, say, or a pram, or an idyllic field) and a routine (the hard slog of ARP warden in the blitz, travels in Germany, life in the nursery).  And an early death cuts the story short, again and again and again.

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