Life after Life by Kate Atkinson follows Ursula Todd, a girl born in 1910, who repeats her life over and over again in various scenarios until she gets it ‘right’. A kind of historical fiction Butterfly Effect.
The book covers the period of the two World Wars, primarily focusing on World War Two, but jumping around in the early half of the 20th Century. Lead character Ursula finding her way into key events ranging from being one of the girls in Hitler’s central ‘clique’ through to a starving mother in Cold War Berlin or an assassin.
Author Kate Atkinson explores the idea of what could happen, be it second chances in making different decisions or the little things out of our control that could change a whole life. I love the frustrations of Ursula in having a sense of repeating life, yet being treated as crazy and how these little things effect her in different lifetimes.
The book was enthralling, though a tad frustrating at times when you quite liked one ‘life’ only to have it end and on to a life that perhaps didn’t go the way you would like. It is part of the human condition I suppose, that life often doesn’t go the way we would like, or we end up in certain circumstances that are often out of our control that aren’t our fault.
Kate Atkinson shows well the emotions and tensions of life – desperation in living and hardship (even for the well-off) in surviving events such as the 1918 flu epidemic and of course the war from various perspectives. Of course there are also the joys involved in war and peace – particularly coming from family.
Well worth a read.