Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can – will she?Description from Goodreads
Okay, I know this is like the movie Groundhog Day (which I’ve never seen). Everyone I’ve told about this book has said, “You mean like Groundhog Day?” So I guess, yes. But it’s so much more than that.
If you like multigenerational family dramas, you will like this. It is not really multigenerational, but Ursula lives so many different lives it has the same feel. It’s also historical fiction about both WWI and WWII, a coming of age novel, and a novel about family relationships. There is so much packed into this book, and it is all done well. I did get a little confused in the middle trying to remember which life that happened in or who she met in this one, but it was not so confusing that I couldn’t follow the plot.
Also, this is a brilliant plot line, I tell you. There are subplots that disappear, making you think they’re finished, only for them to be picked back up again a few lives later. Nothing that needs to be wrapped up goes unwrapped, and the things that Atkinson leaves open-ended are left in the most graceful way possible. Ursula grows and develops as a person both in her individual lives and across all her lives as one. This is some amazing story telling with an amazing character arc.
Finally, my favorite thing about this novel was the family relationships, especially the sibling ones. Ursula’s ties to her siblings are arguably the most important relationships in the entire novel, and you all know I love to read about siblings. You get to see how it affects Ursula when she remains close to them in adulthood versus when she drifts away, and it reinforces the importance of siblings. Overall, this was phenomenal, amazingly written, and you should pick it up. (Also, I’m currently reading the A God in Ruins, which is a spinoff of this, about Ursula’s brother. Look for that review in my next review post!)
Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris
Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.
You’d like to get to know Grace better.
But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.
Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.
Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.Description from Goodreads
You all know I love a good thriller, and this was pretty well written, but I just came away from this one feeling meh. It was a very quick read; I finished it in about a day. But, though this is technically billed as Mystery & Thriller on Goodreads, it wasn’t really that. Maybe I’d just call it suspenseful fiction? It’s easy to figure out what’s going on, even just from the description, and it’s a story that has been written time and time again. It didn’t really add anything new to the conversation on domestic violence or even provide a unique perspective.
It had pretty good characters, even if they were maybe a bit flat. The dialogue over-explained some things that I felt could have been left to the reader to figure out, but it wasn’t overly annoying. I appreciated the inclusion of Esther’s character, but I wish that maybe this had been written from both women’s perspectives. I think that could have added an extra dimension to a novel that was good but not great. Given that, I’d say my main issue with this is it wasn’t really anything new.
Images from Goodreads.