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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterful story teller, in whose hands such a different way of telling a story, really works., 9 July 2014
This review is from: Life After Life (Paperback)
This novel continually reminds us that our lives hang by a thread - life can be whipped away from us in the time it takes to take a breath. In one instance we have baby Ursula dying at birth because a snow storm prevents the doctor getting there in time. In then next instance her life begins again with the doctor present. In another instance, her mother Sylvie has the foresight to perform CPR - probably unknown in 1910; and in yet another scenario Ursula lives because Sylvie dredges up a pair of scissors and frees the cord from around baby's neck.

Does it all sound far to bizarre? Well, yes it is, but the story or should it be stories of Ursula's life are so comfortably wrapped and contained within such familiar and known boundaries - everday day family life, young adulthood, sibling rivalry, pre-war Germany, the Blitz and the war in general - that it doesn't feel at all unfamiliar and weird. As we know life is full of what-if moments, and we all wonder how things would have panned out if we had chosen a different path. So in this book, amongst other deaths, Ursula drowns. In the replay she is is saved from drowning, and in another it is another child who drowns. As a young woman, again there are different versions which all have different outcomes. Some good, some not so good. By the end of the book we really have no idea exactly how Ursula's life happened: maybe the idea is that each reader takes the lives they like and puts them altogether to create Ursula's life. We know of course that she didn't try to kill Hitler in the 1930s, but just imagine if she had succeeded!

As weird as all this description so far sounds, it does work, and the result is this wonderful book about Ursula, her family who become as familiar to the reader as Ursula does, and her life, or should that be lives. It is the quality of the writer, of course, who makes all these threads hang together, and Ms Atkinson is superb. Her story of Ursula is as much a commentary on England from 1910 to post-war and the effects these times had on the average person who lived through them. Her sections on the London Blitz are simply amazing and many reviewers have commented on how vividly she portrays what London and its residents went through.

Many reviewers on the likes of Good Reads think it is just plain weird and strange and completely implausible. But don't let that stop you from becoming immersed into Ursula's life, and if you can get past the time changes and jumping backwards and forwards through history, this is a really worthwhile book.
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