Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

The previous Kate Atkinson book I tried to read, Case Histories,  was a detective novel that I did not find particularly well-written or compelling, so I had avoided this latest one.  However, the genre of Life After Life is completely different, the writing style quite intriguing, and the plot rather unique. Think about this...have you ever wondered where your life would be right now if you had just made
one different choice in life, whether the decision was a major one like who to marry, or a minor one like attending a parade?  I think it's a pretty natural thing for all of us to do.  Sometimes I think "What if I
had majored in journalism instead of English?  What if I had attended a different college and never met my husband?  What if I had been ten feet further down the highway and gotten crushed by that semi-truck when it hit the other car next to me?"  Atkinson takes this very human need to second-guess oneself, and turns it into one of the most intriguing novels I've read in years.  She starts with a plot line - Sylvie giving birth to Ursula, cord wrapped around the baby's neck, deep in the English countryside, during a snowstorm.  So, what are all the possible combinations of what could have happened?  Atkinson then takes a path, leads the reader down it to show the twists and turns life takes, then ends the path.  Next, she chooses a different path, and so on and so on.  It is shockingly easy to follow once you catch on to the pattern (hint:  it always comes back to the snow and the dark). Atkinson is able to to use the rich history of England during both WWI and WWII as well as some interesting characters that pop in and out of the plotline, giving her a plethora of 'paths' to take.  I would strongly recommend this to a book club, as I am dying to talk to someone, anyone, about the different choices and the culminating consequences.


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