Review by Hilary Sepahy
Life After Life By Kate Atkinson
If you have ever wondered what your life would have been like if you’d taken a different decision at certain points in your life, then this is Atkinson’s key idea. The novel follows the several possible lives of Ursula, the main character, from her birth in 1910 until when? We don’t know as the book concludes with Ursula being born again.
The third child in a comfortable middle-class family living in a village in the Home Counties, Ursula has two older siblings; Maurice, the odd child out disliked by everyone, and Pamela, the down to earth sporty one, plus two young brothers; Teddy, loved by all, and Jimmy the youngest. Their father Hugh fought in WW1 and then resumed his career as a London banker. Ursula, his little bear, was her father’s favourite and Teddy, her mother’s. Memories of her seemingly idyllic childhood fortified her though the hardships in her various lives.
We follow the many possible lives of Ursula, one that finds her married to a man who became a member of the Hitler elite and stranded in Germany during the war she experiences the war from the other side. In another life Ursula spends the war in London and volunteers in the ARP. The description of the death and destruction wrought by German bombers during the Blitz is vivid and moving and probably constitutes the best chapters in the book.
Apart from being so well written with believable characters it also started me thinking about free will and determinism and how much choice, if any, I had in taking the decisions that framed my life.