Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

 Life After Life is a unique book that makes its readers think.

It reads differently than most other novels. It isn't a reincarnation story, which I was led to believe by friends who know I write past life mysteries. Instead it is based on Eternalism which, according to Wikipedia, is ...the view that each spacetime moment exists in and of itself. But it differs from Eternalism because Ursula, the novel's main character, begins to feel déjà vu moments and causes events to change.

It took me more time to get into this book than any other I've read this year. There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, it takes a little more than a third of the book before any of the characters begin to show a sense that things have happened before. Because of this, the story felt as if Kate Atkinson was repeating herself for no reason. Secondly, due to the repeating events, which occur with differences, it's hard to keep the flow of the plot straight. My wife and I like to tell each other what's happening in the novels we're reading. With Life After Life I kept relating events that happened, then the following day I would talk about other events which occurred because the prior events had NOT happen. Also, some characters were major in one life path and were barely mentioned in all the others.

Characters have to grow for any novel to be worth reading. As Life After Life progresses, Kate Atkinson solves this dilemma by placing the entry point of each of Ursula's stories later in her life. We get to see her as a child early on and, later, as a young woman. That works well, but implies that each life kept the changes that occurred in previous go rounds, which is odd if no one remembers what changes were made.

Life After Life is set during World War II and in the years leading up to that horrible period of world history. It has a subplot touching on some of the personal connections members of the English upper class had with Germany. This decision brings tension and tragedy into the work and keeps the pages turning. Yet in the end it is the philosophy and the thought stimulated by the philosophy which makes it a good read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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