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.