Saturday, January 04, 2014

Life After Life (by Kate Atkinson)

Oh my god, this book is amazing. I just want to write a review that says: "Read it. Read it now. Read it. Now. Read it. Yes. Now. Read it right now. Read it." (I will add the caveat that if you tend to dislike anything experimental or postmodern, it might not be the book for you. If you do like those things, read it. Read it now. Read it.)  I'm going to write about it as generally as I can manage, but if you are spoiler-averse, you may want to skip the next two paragraphs.

The premise of the book--that the main character, Ursula, gets to relive her life over and over, is executed perfectly. You would think that wiping the slate clean would make you care about the characters less, but in fact you learn more about them each time and care about them more. Events recur, there are seemingly inexorable chains of events, and several of the "lives" endings cut to the bone so that next time around, you are desperate for Ursula to change her fate. It's also so structurally interesting--you would again think that this conceit would make you feel very aware of the authorial presence and the events would feel false, but again, they seemingly never do. Atkinson is just that good.

The backdrop--including London during the Blitz--is historically fascinating and richly drawn. The characters, major and minor, are note perfect. I seriously loved this novel. It is only the first book I've read in 2014, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it turned out to be the best.

[Note: I've started using the 2014 ToB tag for books on the long list. So far I've only tagged this and The Interestings, but I fully expect to see them both on the tournament shortlist. Eleanor & Park I'm less sure about, though I do feel it is deserving of a spot and will probably make it. Other sure things in my opinion that I haven't yet read: Tenth of December, The Goldfinch, Americanah.]

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3 Comments:

Blogger Beth said...

Agree. Agree. Agree. This was the best book I read in 2013, and I am thinking of rereading it and making it the best book of 2014, too.

12:31 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

(I don't know if you'll read this, but a bunch of your comments apparently got caught in moderation. Grr. Anyway I'm answering them all because I love talking books with you! And I changed the settings on my blog to see if that'll help.)

1:35 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

And yes, this book is still one of my top contenders of the year.

1:37 PM  

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