Monday, 15 July 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (3/5)

First published: 2013
Page count: 477

The back says: What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
I say: I feel cheated. This is a war novel and I don’t like war novels and it never said so on the cover. I had nightmares for the first time in months, dreaming I was being bombed in London during WWII.

I guess this is what I get for believing the hype.
As that short introduction of bitterness reveals, I had high hopes for this novel. Silly me read a few recommendations about how great this was and, despite history having supposedly taught me differently, I went ahead and read it.

Much to my own regret.
I liked the idea of getting second chances at life and being able to right certain wrongs. The premise of the book reminded me of the Life Serial episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Buffy has to sell a mummy hand to a woman, and each time she fails, she is back at square one when the woman walks into the store. Or, in less nerdy terms, like every time you die in a video game and have to start over.

Maybe not so less nerdy.
Each time Ursula starts over she remembers feelings of dread from her previous lives (or previous attempts at the same life) that guide her into making a better choice this time; sometimes having to repeat the same sequence more than once, trying different options. At first, I found it rather interesting, but as the novel progressed it became quite tedious. Not to mention the fact that much of it took place during WWII – both in England and Germany. Hitler and Eva Braun make farfetched cameos, and I am not sure how much research Atkinson did when writing this (and can’t be arsed to find out), but it all just made me roll my eyes and beg for a swift end to it all.

Truth be told, I was bored.
477 pages is far too much for a story that doesn’t interest you, and the only reason I kept reading was because the first chapter is of Ursula killing Hitler and then being killed – thus prompting a new start of her life – and I wanted to know how Atkinson was going to twist the end.

Spoiler: The end was huge heap of meh!
I realise now that I haven’t said much of the characters; I liked some and hate others. There was an abundance of literary quotes, which was rather nice (mostly), and a lot of horrifying war imagery.

If I could live life over I’d not read this novel because it honestly didn’t give me anything other than annoyance and nightmares.
3/5 because Atkinson can tell a good story and... yeah, that!

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