I’m a little late to the party with this book, but let’s be real, I’m the worst at reading books as soon as they come out. I wish I had the time to stay current but I’m lucky I find time to read and write at all some days. I was so excited to read this book, I had read Kate Atkinson’s interview on Goodreads a while ago and though this book sounded really intriguing. It also got a lot of great reviews and I was anxious to see what all the hype was about. After having read it I’m baffled that there was any hype about it at all.
The book follows the life of Ursula Todd as she dies over and over again and is reborn each time. In the prologue Ursula shoots Hitler. The build up to that has to be fantastic right? Not even a little bit. The first quarter of the book is spent depicting Ursula’s childhood which was even more boring than it sounds. When I’m reading a book I want that ‘I can’t wait to pick this up again’ feeling each time I have to set it down. “Life After Life” gives you that ‘The only reason I am picking this book up is because it has to get better, right?’ feeling. The time period was good for me, most the story is set in England from 1910-1945. However the characters were lacking in…well pretty much everything. There is nothing about Ursula that makes you connect with her or feel anything for her period. Her siblings should have been much better fleshed out considering the large amount of time the book spends focusing on her childhood. Her mother Sylvie seems bipolar at times, I can’t figure out when she’s going to care about the children and when she’s not. The father, Hugh, was the most likable character in the book for me, showing genuine and consistent emotion throughout. There are a handful of secondary characters that I enjoyed but they don’t carry the book.
After her childhood we are shown what Ursula’s alternate adulthoods are like which range from marrying an abusive husband who ends up killing her, to marrying and having a child with a German who ends up being one of the higher ups in Hitler’s Third Reich. Her life when she was in Germany was by far the best part of the book for me, aside from the prologue. I thought Kate Atkinson did a nice job of communicating what it may have been like to live in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich, the fear that people must have felt and how things spiraled so far out of control. Ursula and her daughter spent time with Eva Braun at Hitler’s mountain retreat and I loved the glimpse into what that day to day life could have been there. None of Ursula’s relationships made me feel anything. I never really connected with her, perhaps because I felt like she had so few meaningful attachments or connections in her life. The book ended rather abruptly, on the night of Ursula’s birth yet again right after she shot Hitler and found out her brother survived his plane going down during the war. Was I suppose to pick which one of the lives I thought she should follow? Since she was born again does that mean that killing Hitler wasn’t what she was supposed to do with her life? I have no idea and I don’t care in the slightest. I hate that I didn’t like it but it is what it is. On to my next adventure.