By Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson won a Whitbread Prize for her debut novel, Behind the Scenes at a Museum (1995), though she's best known for her crime series featuring Jackson Brodie (Case Histories , Started Early, Took My Dog **** May/June 2011). In Life After Life, Atkinson explores the many possible outcomes for her heroine Ursula Todd.
THE STORY: In 1910, Ursula Todd, the newborn daughter of a British banker, dies before taking a breath: "No wind in the strangled pipe. The buzzing of a thousand bees in the tiny curled pearl of an ear." Not to worry. In Life After Life--which covers six decades, from 1910 to 1967--Ursula is resurrected again and again, her life sometimes unfolding tragically--as a rape victim, an abused wife, a young girl about to have an accident. On other occasions, she's a war hero or a friend of Adolf Hitler's lover Eva Braun. Ursula's gift of many lives ignores the constraints of time, seemingly pushing her toward some inexorable fate. Has she alone been given a chance to change the world?
Reagan Arthur Books. 544 pages. $27.99. ISBN: 9780316176484
Los Angeles Times *****
"Ursula is one woman, rendered in multiple iterations, which makes this a story about the creation of self. That's no small feat, although if there is a flaw in this fantastic novel, it's that some of Ursula's narratives are so compelling, so convincing, that it is hard to imagine her ending up any other way." CAROLYN KELLOGG
"Perhaps above all Life After Life is a fantastically ambitious novel, seeking to capture the complexity and momentousness of life itself, which succeeds on every level, and it is one of the best I've read in years." JILL OWENS
Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel ****
"Atkinson tantalizes but does not state outright. Playfully, she also threads the novel with grace notes about choices and time, such as allowing Ursula to buy the yellow party dress in one life that she denied herself in an earlier one." JIM HIGGINS
New York Times ****
"Life After Life is a big book that defies logic, chronology and even history in ways that underscore its author's fully untethered imagination. ... Even without the sleight of hand, Life After Life would be an exceptionally captivating book with an engaging cast of characters." JANET MASLIN
Seattle Times ****
"This Groundhog Day-like premise--that Ursula is fated (or doomed) to relive her life until she gets it right--is at the core of a novel that's sure to be...