What a book. What a colossal book Life After Life by Kate Atkinson was.
Synopsis from the book cover: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Ursula's world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization -- if only she has the chance?
I chose this book for the curious plot that was set at the beginning of the 20th century and because it came very highly recommended by a lot of people. This massive book was quite the undertaking. Not only was it long but it was a slow read. There were parts of this book that were like trudging through sand. The book covers decades from the Edwardian era all the way through to the Postwar era. Despite the exciting times that this existed in, there were moments that were just plain mundane and tedious. Moments that I wanted to abandon the book and not come back to it.
That being said, I do not think this was a bad book at all. One could easily hack out half the book and still have a wonderful story because when it got good it was good. As Ursula is living her lives and ultimately coming to tragic ends again and again it was like reading in an ocean tide. The story would come to these great surges of well written excitement and tragedy only to come crashing down and start over with the trudging...again...and again. The life where Ursula was married to an abusive man was so painfully real and terrifying and her time in the Air Raid Precautions Department during the London Blitz was breathtakingly tragic. But, then we'd get plunked right back into Fox's Corner to start again. Which, while I didn't find that enjoyable, might just be the experience that the author wanted us to have to immerse us into Ursula's cyclic existence. By the end of this book I felt confounded and exhausted and I have a sense that is exactly what Kate Atkinson wanted.
And can we please talk about the end?! I don't even know what to do with that ending. Is Ursula stuck forever being reborn no matter what she does? And there were some serious allusions to Sylvie and Teddy having the same affliction. Is everyone living and dying again? Just some? Were the random scenes written from other character's perspectives, speckled through out the book and then shot at us rapid fire at the end, supposed evidence that others are living like this too and Ursula's isn't the only perspective in this circular universe? What was the significance of Roland? Why was the midwife, who had no bearing in the story at all, the last character we see? That's purposeful! But, for the life of me I don't understand the purpose. If you've read the book, I would love to know what you took away from all of this.
On a scale of Total Pile to Masterpiece, I'd give this book a Glad I Read It, But I'm Also Glad It's Over.
I had no clue what I was going to wear for this book until this gorgeous dress stumbled into my life just days before the review was due. Goodwill delivers again! Not only were the colors and print perfect, but the sweetheart neckline reminded me of 1930's glamour and I played that up with the red lips and flowing hair. I imagine this was somewhat of Ursula's look in the opening scene of the book when she is described as looking like a movie star.