Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Monday Night Book Club Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Elaine Burns

Best known for her Jackson Brodie mysteries, this book is a significant departure for Atkinson. The genre is difficult to pin down. There are many factual, historical, real accounts in this book, in fact all of the world happenings are true. However, the premise of the book is unique.

The protagonist, heroine, main character is Ursula, a child born in England early in the 20th century during a snow storm, who lives through the history of that country during the first half of the century, many times. Each chapter has her making different choices, leading to alternate outcomes and varied historys of her life.

For example, she may die at birth, or she may die after jumping out a window to retrieve a favourite toy; there are many other alternate scenarios which we won’t give away here but make for a fascinating read, and which may lead you to “what if I had/hadn’t” questions about your own life.

Perhaps the best thing that happens, doesn’t happen and happens again, then doesn’t, is the surprise at the end, before the Second World War.

The Goodreads website calls it:

“Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.”

The Guardian says:

“Maybe Atkinson was wary of writing something that might be recognizably a family novel – too ordinary. If that was the case, she had no need to worry. There is no question that Atkinson is a superb writer and this Costa prize-winner is remarkable – joyful, moving, perceptive and quietly funny.”

The New York Times review states:

“Atkinson’s juggling a lot at once — and nimbly succeeds in keeping the novel from becoming confusing. Even so, reading the book is a mildly vertiginous experience, rather like using the “scenes” function on a DVD to scramble the film’s original order. At times Life After Life suggests a cross between Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter and those interactive “hypertext” novels whose computer-savvy readers can determine the direction of the story.”

The Monday Night Book Club loved it. We found it funny, thought-provoking, and a unique format. Many of us are fans of Kate Atkinson and have followed her mystery novels for years. This book is very different from those but equally compelling.

After the darkness the snow falls… to discover what this means you must read Life After Life. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Our June Book has been changed to Hungry Ghosts by Canadian Peggy Blair.

FOML Update:

Ta Da!

The Net Shed begins its new season on Saturday, May 21. We will be open every weekend until Thanksgiving from 10:00am – 4:00pm. We will open Friday afternoons (1-4) starting July 1 until Labour Day weekend. We will be open all statutory holidays starting July 1 until Thanksgiving weekend (10-4).

Come on out! It is such a great spot to browse, enjoy the harbour and contribute to the Friends of the Meaford Library and its mission to contribute to the Meaford Public Library.

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