Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

"Life after life" by Kate Atkinson (Black Swan, 2014)

I've read The Time Traveler's Wife and How to live safely in a science fictional universe. In this book the main character (born 11 Feb 1910) dies several times, starts again, lives several overlapping lives, one of them lasting to June 1967. She's vaguely aware of these other possibilities - "That would have been a quite different life, perhaps a better one. Of course, there was no way of knowing these things" (p.160); "'But at least no one was pushed down the stairs,' Ursula said" (p.576). Molesters, Foxes and Wolves are themes. It's 611 pages long - a page-turner though I could have done without p.370-409, and some other sections.

Other reviews

  • Justin Cartwright (Guardian) (This is a wonderful book, but ... The virtuoso creation of home-counties domesticity and the wide-ranging sensitivity of Atkinson's mind – ever alert to voice, to changing times, to the faltering class system, to the horrors of war, to changing styles of dress, and to housekeeping and much more, the literary allusions – really don't require the tricksy bits.)
  • Helen Brown (Telegraph) (The intimate echoes of their nicknames and in-jokes pass through the walls of her parallel universes. ... This is Atkinson’s best book to date)
  • Goodreads
  • Rachel Hore (Independent) (The novels of Kate Atkinson habitually shuffle past and present, but Life After Life takes the shuffling to such extremes that the reader has to hold on to his hat. It's more than a storytelling device. Ursula and her therapist discuss theories of time.)
  • Francine Prose (New York Times) (Atkinson’s juggling a lot at once — and nimbly succeeds in keeping the novel from becoming confusing.)
  • Amanda Craig (New Stateman) (Time and memory are at the heart of much of Atkinson’s work. Though she still has a tendency to resort to excessive allusion and literary quotation, she is always funny and humane. ... This is, without doubt, Atkinson’s best novel since her prizewinning debut, 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' ... she has recast her interest in mothers and daughters and the seemingly unimportant, quotidian details of life to produce a big, bold novel that is enthralling, entertaining and experimental. It is not perfect – the second half of the book, for example, could have done with one less dead end )

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