Life After Life - Atkinson
audio performance by Fenella Woolgar
Before I started this book, I’d read a number of reviews and summaries. And although none of them were inaccurate, they were still a bit misleading. Yes, it is the story of Ursula Todd as she lives her life over and over again. And, it is a bit like a series of linked short stories. The writing is wonderful. Any one of Ursula’s ‘lives’ could stand alone as entertaining historical fiction. But I thought continually of Mitchell’s [b]Cloud Atlas[/b]. The thing that made both of these books exceptional was the sublimely crafted connections between the stories.
Often in historical fiction, the author creates characters who can become the focus of a particular social or political viewpoint. A female character to be a suffragette or a socialite; a male character to be union leader or a spy. Throughout the various lives of Ursula Todd, Atkinson has written one character who experiences events for all viewpoints. In one life she is the rescue worker pulling bodies from the bombed buildings; in another she is the victim. She is a strong independent woman; she is a cowering abused woman. She survives the London Blitz; she dies in the defeat of Berlin. It was fascinating, especially when Ursula began to remember her other lives. I couldn’t read it just once. I had to go back, reread, rearrange the puzzle pieces and pull them apart again.
The audio performance was very well done, but I couldn’t digest the stories without the printed version.