What I'm Reading: Life After Life

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hello!  It's been a while since I've posted on this blog, and I wanted to resurrect it for an experiment.  I miss reviewing all of the books that I read, but those of you who have read some of my previous reviews know that they can be pretty long.  The original drafts are much longer and take me quite a while to edit.  Blame my penchant for perfectionism and desire to detail every thought that I have about a book.  

In order to make reviewing easier and less time consuming, thereby encouraging me to actually do it, I want to try an approach that I'm calling the "Five Minute Book Review."  It's pretty self-explanatory: I set a timer for five minutes, write everything I can about the book in that five minutes, and then post it.  Pretty easy, right?  I think the struggle for me will be actually sticking to the five minutes. 

Here's my first attempt.  It probably took me closer to 10 minutes (or maybe 15).  

 
If I had to choose one word to describe Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, it would be stunning.  This is truly a masterpiece, one of the greatest works of literature that I have read in recent memory.  Life After Life was my first introduction to Kate Atkinson’s work, and as I was reading the book, I was simultaneously completely immersed in the story and totally awe-struck by just how stunning the writing is. 

The premise is unique: Ursula Todd continually dies and is reborn.  The circumstances of her lives and deaths are different, but her family is always the same, as is the historical context that comes to shape and define her lives: World War I and World War II.  Atkinson doesn’t get bogged down in the specifics of her premise, choosing to explore similar themes (family, gender, patriotism, war and its effects at both the national and individual level, morality, and death, among many other topics) through Ursula’s different lives rather than attempting to explain how the reincarnation premise works. 

The result is a novel that effortlessly interweaves countless threads and stories, showing how the subtlest of changes can make all the difference in the world, or sometimes none at all.  The characters are memorable and relatable, fully realized individuals who are able to captivate readers even in spite of their often significant flaws.  Above all else, they are achingly human. 

Atkinson’s writing is brilliant, and she has truly mastered the art of the parenthetical aside and tangent.  Where other asides feel choppy or intrusive, Atkinson is able to artfully weave her tangents into the story in a way that enriches the narrative and never feels distracting. 

An absolute must read.  Five out of five stars.   

6 comments:

  1. I'm glad you loved it as much as I did! I read it last year around this time, and just couldn't recommend it enough!

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    1. It's so good! I keep recommending it to everyone I can. It will probably be my favorite from this year - it's a tough one to beat!

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  2. So many books have interesting premises but end up getting lost in the weeds or losing their magic in the attempt to Explain, it is good to hear that Atkinson avoids those pitfalls and makes great use of an interesting set up. I will have to add this to my to-read list on Goodreads!

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    1. Definitely! This book is just perfection. It was a total pleasure to read. I hope you enjoy it! :)

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  3. We've missed you! I'm adding this to my to-read list. x

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    1. I missed you all, too! Definitely check this one out - it's incredible. :)

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