Life After Life

The brilliant Andrew K. said this book was brilliantly written. He is well read with a good reputation for book recommendations. I put it on my reading list – only to found a long queue at the library for the same. Many must’ve agreed with Andrew.

It was brilliant! Kate Atkinson is a British academic who debunked the saying of “those who can’t…”

Mild spoiler alert. I will hint at the structure, which is part of the brilliancy.

Ursula Todd gets to live her life over and over again, each time with only the gut feelings and vague senses of déjà vu. Yes, she practiced, and made perfect, of her life.

The book, therefore, is a series of restating the same story. After a couple of “WTF how come the there is no plot?” chapters, I got the idea. Her first several lives ended tragically and quickly. Each death, however, made the next one better and longer, alas creating new opportunities to end her life in a new way.

Ursula was born in the winter of 1910 and would have lived through both world wars in Britain, largely London, and the continental Europe. The wars provided many miseries. Her “inexperience” of living and general stupidity of being a teenager and a young adult made death come easily. It must have taken many, many lifetimes to acquire the wisdom.

Kate Atkinson toyed us by killing her differently and showing us her awkward, and sometime failed, attempts to survive. (Man, it took her 20 some years to live just a few minutes longer!?) I rejoiced when she found happiness and saddened with her inevitable losses, some of them brutally. Kate Atkinson can, hence the brilliancy, weave many stories and shape the protagonist’s character multiple times in the same book. Does Ursula gets to die one last time, with some kind of purposes fulfilled? (You really don’t think I am going to reveal that. Do you?)

What if we are all Ursula Todd and living this life just the last time of many? What if wisdom is simply from the increase number of dying, or reincarnations? (You are stupid because you haven’t died enough times.) How Buddhism.

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  1. Pingback: The First 15 Lives of Harry August | Loud Thoughts

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