First off, I've been a fan of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series for quite awhile, but had never read any of her other works. Her earlier novels were all written before Case Histories (the first in the Brodie series) was published in 2005. While the Brodie series is a mystery series, they are a little different. What I liked about Case Histories is that it wasn't a typical mystery. Yes, there is a murder to solve, but it's only one of three cases that Brodie is working on.
When I heard that Kate Atkinson was writing another book, I was actually a little disappointed that it wasn't a Jackson Brodie book. But since I already knew I liked her writing style, I assumed that I would get to the new book sooner or later. Well, it turned out to be sooner rather than later.
Life After Life starts off with the birth of Ursula Todd in 1910. Minutes later, she dies. And then she is born again, but this time she lives. That is, until she dies again and the process starts over. Good things and bad things happen to Ursula in her different lives. Some events are exactly the same; other times, they are very different. Often she is aware of her past life, but most times she is not. Maybe it's déjà vu? Maybe it's not?
Ursula's very proper English mother is quite exasperated by Ursula's behavior (it is very un-English like), and eventually takes her to see a psychiatrist, who brings up the subject of reincarnation. But Ursula doesn't always encounter Dr. Kellet, so is she aware of this idea in her other lives?
|London during the Blitz -- 1941|
Much of the story revolves around English life during World War II, and Ursula's role in it. In one life, she is a warden during the Blitz; in another, she is acquainted with Eva Braun and Hitler. Sometimes she meets the same people, sometimes she doesn't.
As you see, it's a hard book to describe. But I think the author put it best herself:
People always ask you what a book is ‘about,’ and I generally make something up, as I have no idea what a book is about (it’s ‘about’ itself). But if pressed, I think I would say Life After Life is about being English (on reflection, perhaps that’s what all my books are about). Not just the reality of being English, but also what we are in our own imaginations.
Atkinson just uses the premise of living your life over and over again to demonstrate her view on being "English". (She goes into greater detail here, but don't read it if you don't want spoilers.)
This book turned out not to be exactly what I thought it would be, but sometimes it's good not to have your expectations met. In this case, it was a very good thing.
Click below for books in the Jackson Brodie series:
One Good Turn
When Will There be Good News?
Started Early, Took My Dog
Click below for other books by Kate Atkinson:
Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Not the End of the World
-- Post by Tracy