Book Review: Life After Life

Apr 8, 2013

As we live our lives, we're presented with seemingly minute decisions to make every day. Each decision takes us on a specific path. Some prove to be wise. Others have us wishing for a mulligan.

In Kate Atkinson's new novel, Life After Life, protagonist Ursula Todd is born on February 11, 1910. Again and again, she is born on February 11, 1910. When something happens to cause her death, she is allowed start over.

With each new life, Ursula makes different decisions, allowing her to live a little longer each time. A chronic case of déjà vu.

Through Ursula's many lives, Atkinson is able to introduce readers to epic events of the 20th century: World War I, the Armistice and a heavy concentration on the London Blitz.

Life After Life could be considered dark, due to the "death after death" aspect of the plot. But Atkinson's poetic prose coupled with biting humor provides for a most enjoyable read.

Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh... not exactly a literary mecca. Despite this, she has an impressive and smart fan base. Stephen King dubbed her Case Histories as the best mystery of the decade. Last week on Weekend Edition, Scott Simon praised Life After Life for its intricate plot.

But the accolades that got my attention came from the advance praise sheet with quotes from 31 trusted independent booksellers across the country. The King's English, Powell's, The Tattered Cover. They're all saying this is the book of the year.