Fiction 2013 | 560 pages
Ursula Todd is born in England on a very snowy evening, February 10, 1910. Except she is strangled by her umbilical cord and dies.
Until the next time she is born.
Kate Atkinson takes us on many journeys of parallel and alternate lives, as Ursula is born again and again and lives out different lives, or, more precisely, encounters different life circumstances. Situations, chance meetings, and occurrences in her life shift in her reincarnations and, of course, impact how long her life lasts and how it plays out. She remains in her same nuclear family, the Todd family, with the same parents, siblings, and Aunt Lizzie ... all characters which are drawn irrevocably and clearly. You don't confuse Ursula's sister Pammy with Aunt Lizzie. The characters are strong and unique.
Atkinson does this without any kitsch. This isn't Groundhog Day. It is a serious and highly engaging exploration of chance events ... brother Maurice throwing a doll out the window in one life; a rape on a stair well in another; meeting Eva Braun when Eva was 17 in a third life. Ursula has a sense of deja vu, but not a strong recollection from life to life.
The vividness of the World Wars, in the lives where Ursula lives well into adulthood, is stark. Atkinson profoundly portrays what it was like to be bombed in London in the 1940s. Visceral, graphic, real. She similarly tells the story of women at these times, and also, we experience a good dose of successful and failed romance.
An excellent read ... I highly recommend it. It is very well-written and a fascinating story.