Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life is the October book for Oscar and Friend’s Bookclub, and I’m glad it is, because I may not have come across it otherwise (my partner has rescinded my bookshop browsing privileges). After reading the blurb, I was reminded of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, yet Atkinson’s take on reliving the same life over and over is very different to North’s. North’s focuses quite specifically on her protagonist, whereas Atkinson’s main character, Ursula, is supported by a wide cast of characters, family, friends, and lovers, creating a rich narrative exploring the heartbreak and devastation of the first and second world wars. Although Ursula re-lives the same life, she doesn’t have complete memories. Rather she has feelings of doom and deja vu, snippets of moments slipping through from a previous life, so each life is just as valuable as the next. She’s not aware, or at least not convinced, of her ability (though I like the hints that her ability may be genetic).
The story reminded me of the tide coming in, slowly creeping forward before retreating, and it took me a little while to get into the story. But when I did, it gripped me completely resulting in a late night/early morning trying to finish it. It was beautifully written and the ‘what ifs’ explored make this novel truly memorable.