Our protagonist is Ursula Todd, the third of five children of Harold Todd, a banker, and his young wife, Sylvie. They live in the English countryside, at a large house they call Fox Corner. We begin on the snowy 1910 night of Ursula's birth––which is also the night of her death.
It should make for an awfully short book to have the protagonist die on the same page she is born, but Ursula is an unusual sort of person. She makes a sort of habit of dying. Born dead, dead in her crib, dying multiple times as a child, as a young woman, and on and on. But, after each death, there she is again, with another chance to avoid catastrophe––at least the particular catastrophes that came before.
|The Mitford family|
Atkinson makes it easy to fall in love with her characters, despite––or maybe even because of––their flaws. And Atkinson's depiction of time and place are so vivid I felt I was there on the terrace at Fox Corner with the shadows lengthening on a summer evening; there building sand castles on the beach with the Todd family; there in London with Ursula during the relentless bombing of the Blitz, and the endlessly cold and gray days after the war, when continued scarcity of food, gas and electricity made life as bleak and grinding as wartime––except without the excitement of the bombing and the feeling that every day of survival was a blow struck against the Nazis.
Wry, suspenseful, thrilling, poignant and thought-provoking, Life After Life is a delightfully fresh and inventive novel that should make many 2013 best books lists, and very possibly become an enduring classic.
Life After Life will be published in the US by Reagan Arthur Books (an imprint of Little, Brown and Company) on April 2, 2013.
Note: I received a free publisher's review copy of this book. A version of this review may appear on Amazon, Goodreads and other review sites under my user names there.