Friday, April 12, 2013

Life After Life (Kate Atkinson)

I was excited to devour Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life as the latest selection in my book club.  It got a lot of buzz in the media, but reviews were very mixed, as it seemed like people either absolutely loved it or…didn’t love it.  While I applaud Atkinson for the monumental effort that writing a novel like this entails, I unfortunately was in the latter category.

The title of Life After Life could not be more perfect.  Atkinson raises the question we all sometimes wish we could answer.  How would you live your life over if you had a do-over?  In Ursula, the main character’s case, she has many do-overs, constantly reliving the same periods in her very British life with changes (sometimes major and sometimes subtle).  At the very beginning, she has the opportunity to kill someone who, if he didn’t exist, would completely change the course of history for the better.

It is very difficult to write about Life After Life because it’s incredibly hard to explain the plot.  The reader (as well as Ursula) feels a constant sense of déjà vu.  For me, reading this novel was bordering on a chore; the accordion-style dating of the chapters was very confusing and made me constantly have to go back and forth to get things straight.  I was hoping that it would all come together at the end and allow me to have an “A-ha!” moment, but that never materialized.  Instead, I was left even more confused.  However, you as a reader might love it.  Regardless of your feelings, no one can dispute the fact of Atkinson’s ambitious undertaking to put Life After Life together.