Life After Life – Book Club
A-Z Challenge letter: L – Life
I have joined a Bloggers’ Book Club. It’s new; we’ve only read one book so far, but I was keen to find a reason to make more time for reading (beyond it being pleasurable, I mean – there never seems to be enough time for everything I want to do – now there’s a reason I must read!). For March, we read Life After Life* by Kate Atkinson. The first thing I have to say about Life After Life is that I found it very difficult to put down. It was a really good read. It was not always an easy read, particularly at the beginning since much of the beginning brought back the feelings I went through during PND. I’m glad I kept reading though.
It’s reminiscent of The Time Traveller’s Wife in that we travel back and forward in time to get the whole story. What’s different though is that Ursula, the character who we travel with is not travelling back and forward and piecing together a life – she is going back to specific times and reliving them, changing aspects of that life until she gets its “right”.
That’s not what I took from it to begin with; it didn’t strike me that Ursula was travelling back in time to change the outcome of things. Rather, it seemed to me more that the author was examining different outcomes for her characters based on the actions they could have taken at specific trigger points.
What this book shows most of all is how the smallest change of action can have huge repercussions – we see in the book slight changes – a push, a change of plan – preventing deaths, rape, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, an unhappy and violent marriage and ultimately, the destructive forces of a dictator.
I found the development of various characters interesting. Initially, Sylvia (Ursula’s Mother) was a character I warmed to, but I found her increasingly hard to like as she became more negative, and vindictive towards the family members around her.
From reading others’ comments about the book, it seems that the role Mrs Haddock plays has come up for discussion lots of times. She seems to be a fixed character – nothing about her changes, no matter which version of events is happening at the time. There are lots of theories on this, but for me, this seems to be suggesting that she is the anchor to Ursula’s lives – if Mrs Haddock had made it to the house and to the birth, then events would have worked out in a certain fashion, with little room for change. The fact that the snowstorm kept her away leaves room for the alternative birth stories that begin everything. There’s also been some discussion about whether Sylvie experiences life after life, since at one point she has surgical scissors at the ready. For me this indicates Ursula’s ability to influence events – in one birth story, Dr Fellowes brings the surgical scissors out. Ursula’s ability to time travel seems to have allowed (ensured?) Sylvie to have the foresight to have them handy.
I feel like I have only really scratched the surface of this book and that I will need to read it several more times before I really have a handle on all that happens. If you haven’t read this book, I heartily recommend that you do!