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Kristen Blythe

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Literature

Book Review: Life After Life

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 life after lifecurrent 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.

 

Hello bright, shiny blog world

Hello!  My name is Kristen and if you’re reading this please take a moment to stop and give yourself a big hug from me.  I am so grateful that you’ve shared even a sliver of your very valuable time.  I am a writer and I wanted a place where I could share my love of literature with the world and that’s what you’ve happened upon.  However, since there is more to life than books and writing (sigh) there will be some of that stuff too.  I am the mom of three small boys so that tends to occupy a large amount of my time.  If you don’t enjoy a good penis story every now and then this may not be the right blog for you.

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Now that you know a little bit about me let’s talk about the latest book I’ve read, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I bought this book knowing very little about it.  Honestly the only thing that I knew was that I had heard it mentioned in several of my friends newsfeeds on Facebook and that Starz had made a series out of it.  I like entering into most things in life with very low expectations that way I don’t have sour feelings at then end of whatever it is I’ve tackled.  This book fell nicely into that category.Outlander-blue-cover-198x300

I am a huge historical fiction fan, and I have a fascination with any story set in Europe, so I was geeking out a bit with a glimpse into Scotland in 1743, which is where the majority of the book takes place.  Quick synopsis for those of you that haven’t read it – Claire, a 27 year old WWII combat nurse is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank in Scotland when she encounters a magical stone circle and is transported back to 1743.  She is picked up by traveling Clansmen and is taking back to their castle.  She adapts to life their while trying to find a way back to her own time but meanwhile is forced into marrying 23 year old Scotsman Jamie, who she ends up falling for.  I won’t tell you anymore to keep from spoiling too much.

OK, so things that I loved.  The descriptions of every day life and the class system of the clan society of Scotland.  I love history and it’s clear that the author did a ton of research in prepping for this novel.  I walked away feeling like I know exactly what it was like to live during this time and grateful that I didn’t have to.  The unpredictability.  There were a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming which made this a book I hated putting down.  The secondary characters.  There was a large number of supporting characters in this book and they each brought something interesting and unusual to the table and were endearing in their own ways.

Things I didn’t love.  The last bit of the book fell flat for me when Jamie gets raped by the villain, Black Jack Randall, and they take him to a monastery in France to recover.  I can tolerate rape in a book but the scenes in which Claire tried to recreate it to heal him didn’t work for me.  It was confusing, what she was doing and the reasoning for why she was doing it.  Perhaps I was just reading too fast and missed some key parts but it had to have been several things that I missed.

I read a lot of Goodreads reviews of this book and it surprised me how many people were so up in arms that Claire basically committed adultery with Jamie.  I had a hard time getting into this book before Claire went back in time because I wasn’t even a little bit invested in her relationship with Frank.  Something about it seemed off to me from the start so I didn’t give a rat’s ass that she left him for Jamie, I would have too if I’d been given the chance.

Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending the book is set well for the next installment in which Claire and Jamie try to rewrite history to keep the clans from being wiped out by the English.  I am a sucker for a love story and Claire and Jamie’s was no exception.  There are a lot of life and death moments that up the stakes of their relationship.  It’s hard not to fall for Jamie, he is written so sweet and outlandersincere, he’s by far my favorite character in the book.  I have watched a few of the episodes of the shows on Starz and I cannot rave enough about it, I thought they were amazing.  Please leave comments, I would love to hear what you thought

 

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