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Val's BookBlog

This book made me feel alive.

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

I picked up 'Life After Life' in the winter a few years back. This was the first book I had read in months. At the time I was leaving a job so horrendous that I still shudder when I think about it.


During my time in this hell I found I couldn't read books with the same satisfaction I usually do. Even watching films or listening to my favorite artist left me cold. I was distracted, depressed.


After I left I had no work lined up and I was on my own. I used to love working, but I was actually thankful for the time to do nothing. I needed to recover from a soul crushing experience. I was literally in pieces. I was happy living like a monk.


I had one friend from my last job that I kept in touch with. She invited me to a book club meeting and I thought it would be a good idea to get out of the house. The meeting was only a few days away and I was worried I wouldn't get through 'Life After Life' in that short amount of time. My mental energy was not at its highest either.


But I did finish it.  And it was beautiful.


No spoilers here. Ursula Todd is a British girl born in 1910, and her lifespan is covered from her birth onward. This book is unique because one part of Ursula's story is told, and then by the next chapter it vanishes and a new version is presented. It is up to the reader to decide what parts of Ursula's life are real and not imaginary.


Kate Atkinson's writing is sparse and vivid, yet there are passages of great detail. If you like history (especially WWII) this is a great read. Some of the descriptions of the Blitz are so vivid I can still picture Ursula crouched in a basement, wondering if she will crawl out with her house in rubble.


I have read complaints about the nonlinear approach the story takes. What some found confusing I found unique. All the interpretations of Ursula's life was fascinating. Whether they were real or not doesn't matter. They are pieces of life related to all human experience. It is about choice and renewal.


Not to get soppy, but there were tears streaked all over my face once I finished. I had my own experience in hell (making no comparisons to Ursula's experience living through WWII of course) but in retrospect change was already happening for me at the time, even if it felt like it wasn't coming. I cried for so many reasons after reading this book. I finally felt human again.