Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Kate Atkinson's Life After Life plays with structure in a way I found riveting. The story centers around Ursula Todd, a woman born in the early 1900's who lives her life over and over again in order to right some of the wrong choices she has made. Atkinson boldly begins the story from the beginning over and over again. Sounds boring and tedious? And yet, it isn't. Because she adds layer after complicated layer, more and more details, shifting points of view. And then, several chapters in, we begin over in a later spot in Ursula's life, she des later, we begin again. This book felt like a very complicated puzzle but one I was happy to stay with because the characters were so compelling and familiar yet interesting. This is not a case where the unusual structure is a gimmick. It serves the story by creating the feeling of reinvention. And Atkinson deftly keeps it interesting by, magician-like, revealing another angle, another facet, another possibility. This is not the novel for the reader who wants a straight narrative. You might finish this novel and be not-quite-sure what happened, really. I adored it.