It’s bad when you start hoping the main character will go ahead get it over with and die, for pity’s sake!
Life After Life: A Novel, by Kate Atkinson is based on the premise that the protagonist, Ursula Todd, lives her life over and over and over and over. The suggests that the reason might be so that she can do it until she gets it right. Ursula never seems to get it right.
The book illustrates the main reason I don’t believe in multiple universes or reincarnation. The Creator seems to have set up an orderly universe, with predictable consequences – you know, those laws of physics like, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, conservation of mass and energy in a closed system, and that for action there’s and equal and opposite reaction. He has also instilled unconditional love as our highest value. None of which is consistent with forcing us to go through life – or death – over and over until we get it right.
The best part of the book is that most of the story takes place in London during World War II. Ursula was born, each time she was born, in 1910, so she was a teen during the War to End All Wars and a young woman working for the British Government during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. We Americans are blissfully ignorant of the nightly (“save one”) bombing of London for 10 weeks in September and October, 1940, followed by bombing of that city and others by the Germans the attempt to instill terror in the British and to literally destroy Britain. I am in awe of the people who lived through those nights and of the Air Raid Wardens who served them.
The author pretty much lost my respect for her insight because of a scene in which Ursula is raped. I’m not sure the act could physically be completed the way it’s described, but there’s no way that rape is that nonchalant, non-violent and silent. Perhaps it would have been more plausible if she had induced a fugue state in Ursula. Ms. Atkinson does a much better job with the miserable timeline during which Ursula marries an abusive husband.
There is an interesting detour as Ursula sort of falls into the outer ring of Adolph Hitler’s inner circle.
I only finished the book because of the Battle of Britain stories and a hope of making some sense out of the author’s concept. Or maybe I just wanted a happy ending?
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