There hardly is a book that I’m not a fan of and there are hardly many books that I stop reading if I find them boring. But there are the books that do make me question myself once in awhile, why am I reading this book if I find it so difficult to digest?
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is possibly that book that I found hard to read and digest. It’s one of the few books that I found it hard to like and enjoy as well, but if you understand readers like myself, it’s more of a sin to stop reading a book than it is a sin to not enjoy it.
I guess I found it hard to read the book mostly because of its endless cycles of resurrection that Ursula Todd was subjected to. It is a cycle that Ursula had since she was born whereby she could come back and right the wrongs in her current life and change the course of history. Another reason that might have made me feel relatively gruntled towards the book. You can thank Homer Simpson for those words (Season 16, Episode 11 – On A Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister) since ‘disgruntled‘ is a little harsh (and being relatively gruntled isn’t, I guess).
The book was quite well-written though, don’t get me wrong, and I loved the author’s ability to weave humour and wit in her story. Although sometimes you had to read between the lines to get some of the jokes!
So what else did I think of the book once I was done with it? Well, here are some of my thoughts of it despite feeling disoriented at some point into the book. Too many life cycles and second chances given to Ursula to relive her life left my brain feeling a little out of whack!
Ursula Todd is the third child of Hugh and Sylvie Todd (with the oldest child Maurice, followed by Pamela and after Ursula came Teddy and Jimmy as her siblings). From the time she was born, Ursula had already been given a string of second chances in life. She dies at birth, followed by life before dying again and then being resurrected again. This goes on and on and on throughout the entire book, only at various moments of her life where she had been allowed to live, albeit precariously and forever teetering at the edge.
If I had been given a string of second chances, I’d probably go back in time and right all the wrong I made! Although that is very likely to change the course of history, present and future. But that’s what happened in the story as well. Each time Ursula came back to life, it’s always at a different juncture which she is then able to prevent danger and live on to tell more tales. Of course, the only problem with reading and re-reading her cycles of resurrection is the confusion and complications for me as a reader. One minute, I’ve read that she has died. The next minute, she is alive and well. Dead again by the next or so chapters, alive again in the following. Oh my goodness, the whole thing kept running circles around my head!
It felt like a move mashup between Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow. You live in a loop and each loop gives you the opportunity of foresight to prevent any danger from wiping you out from existence. Is that a good thing though? In reality, we’re only given a chance to something and face the consequences of our actions.
Eventually, however, I got tired of the endless loop. Once I reached the middle of the book, I lost track of the number of times she came back to life. When I found out that it was a 600+ paged book, I figured I would be kept occupied for weeks! But when I finally passed the halfway mark, I started to get tired of reading and wondered if it would ever end. Well, it did anyway. It ended at the very next opportunity of Ursula being given yet again another chance at life… except that it was already the end of the book!
All in all, it was quite disturbing to say the least. That one life after another caused me to lose focus on what I was reading (I had to flip back the chapters several times to see what I missed). That hindered and halted my reading progress a few times too! I don’t hate the book nor the author. Maybe it’s just not for me but I’m still glad I read it all the same.