Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors, so a new release from her is always exciting! She has taken a break from her popular series of crime novels featuring Jackson Brodie to write this extraordinary and thought-provoking novel. The premise of the novel is simple, and is right there on the back cover:
“What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?”
This is what literally happens to Ursula Todd.
Ursula is born on a snowy night in February 1910. The first time she is born, she dies before she has even taken a breath. The second time she is luckier and survives. Ursula is born, lives and dies under different circumstances as she experiences her life over and over, through the turbulent events of the 20th century. In many lives she faces the same turning points and a different choice she makes, or her reaction to an occurrence, changes the outcome for her and those around her. She doesn’t consciously remember her earlier lives, but often has strong “premonitions” when faced with a situation that has ended badly in a previous life. Despite Ursula often facing the same crossroads moments, the story never feels repetitive and is always satisfying – a testament to Kate Atkinson’s inventiveness. Some lives are subtly different, and others radically so, but the characters and the bonds between them are convincing and immediate.
Original, inventive and engrossing, this is a book about family, love, war, history, hope and possibilities. After all, who amongst us hasn’t ever wondered “what if”? A wonderful novel, thoroughly deserving of it’s place on the shortlist of this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Trade paperback, $32.95