Have you ever said to yourself “There but for the Grace of God go I” . Time and again you read or hear of incidents in which you could possibly have been involved had you passed through some point five minutes earlier, or five minutes later. This idea crops up time and again in Kate Atkinson’s book “Life After Life”
The blurb on the back of the book says “What if you had the chance to live your life again and again until you finally got it right ?”
That’s not quite how I saw the book. For one thing I don’t think there is any “right” life Life is just what happens depending on the choices you make, whether they are conscious choices or just plain chance. The blurb is saying that the “right” life is living as long as possible, bypassing all the side branches which end in death.
The birth of the main character Ursula has some variations interspersed through the book, but the story doesn’t go right back to the time of birth in 1910 for each life but merely backtracks to where the side track branched off . It then continues until a new ending-in-death side track appears. But there is plenty of overlap at each re-start so that you know exactly where you are in the “right life”. I thoroughly enjoyed this form of tale telling. There are plenty of other better written blogs than mine which will practically tell you the whole story from go to whoa but I prefer not to know too much detail before I start a book.
I thoroughly enjoyed Life After Life though at times it made me terribly depressed and I began to dread yet another death. So much death in a book reminded me of “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, a book where Death is a main character, yet I am only left with fond memories of that book.
The only part of the book where I did get bored was the European section !
With this book I’ve added a new word to my vocabulary – palimpsest – washing the manuscript page clean so that it can be used again. And that makes me think of a writing slate I had as a child – so easy to wipe it clean to write on it again.
Does your reading style change as you progress through a book ? Mine usually does. To begin with a few pages are read to dip the toes in the water, then a more regular group of pages are read in each reading. As time goes on and the characters and the storyline are more familiar – they’ve become old friends – more pages are read at a faster speed in each sitting until you are practically gulping down the book