07 May 2013

Tuesday's Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson


A copy of this book was furnished by the publisher in return for my review

Publisher: Little, Brown
List Price: $27.99 for Hardback Edition
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I think about what to say regarding  Life After Life by Kate Atkinson,  the word "Wow" keeps popping into my head.  To begin with, my only reference for Kate Atkinson before I read this book was my desire to read her Jackson Brodie books.  I saw that this book was a standalone book, but with my limited knowledge of the author, I made the assumption that it was a mystery story.  Therefore I was totally surprised once I started reading it.

The story centers on the life, or many lives, or Ursula Todd. Ursula is the middle child in a typical family living in the British countryside during the first half of the 20th century.   Since I was expecting a totally different type of story, the first couple of chapters of the book caught me off guard.  It didn't take me very long, though, to get caught up in the story that was unfolding.  The more that I read, the more I became hooked.  I don't think that I have ever come across a story with a premise quite as intriguing and original as this one.  I loved the way that the author used the many lives of Ursula, to illustrate her premise.   The fact that none of her lives were exactly the same and the author’s use of “echoes from the past” to illustrate her point was brilliant in my opinion. I know that on the surface this is a story about Reincarnation, but even more than that, it is a story about the choices we make as we live our lives, and how they affect, not only us, but everyone and everything around us.

Atkinson's writing style was the perfect vehicle for this story. Everything from the structure of her writing, to the way she builds Ursula’s story in successive waves , to the choice of wording that she uses, all blend together to make the story fly off the pages.  She made excellent use of historical reference, beautiful prose, and a dry wit to pull the reader into the story and make them fall in love with her premise.  The characters in the book were amazingly well done, too.  Although they were all typical in some ways, they each had their own little quirks and unusual personality traits, which I loved.  In addition, the way that they interacted and blended throughout Ursula’s many lives lead to many questions about life that I found incredibly intriguing.

If the book had any downfalls at all for me, it was the amount of time that Atkinson spent on the dark parts of Ursula's life.  At times I found myself wishing that I was not so immersed in this part, but in the end, I realized that becoming immersed in this part of her life was as necessary for me as the reader as it was for her.  These were the parts of Ursula's life that had the most impact and that drew both her and I to the ultimate conclusion.

At first upon finishing the book, I rated it 4 stars, but the more time went on and the events in the book kept popping into my mind, spurring questions and making me look at life in a different way, the more I realized the book actually deserved 5 stars.  In fact, I have had some of the best discussions that I have participated in for a long time in reference to this book.  In addition, it is one of the first books in quite a while that I would anticipate reading more than once.

Although I am still excited to read her Jackson Brodie books, I am even more excited to read her first novel, [book:Behind the Scenes at the Museum|28940], which sounds like another book on the caliber of this one. This one is definitely highly recommended.