Ursula Todd keeps dying. She also keeps being born. Each time she is reborn, something about her life (and death) is different. Sometimes she lasts only a few minutes, sometimes a few years, sometimes she lives a whole lifetime, dies, and comes back to do it all again, but with variations. Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (Reagan Arthur, $27.99) is one of the most interesting books I’ve read all year. Atkinson makes Ursula’s deaths and births seem completely natural, expected, and, sometimes, hoped for. Atkinson treats her characters with an enormous amount of sympathy and understanding; she knows them so well that they stay true to themselves even through their circumstances continually change. The final chapters of this story take place in London during the blitz. I’ve read many novels set during this period, but Atkinson’s writing is so evocative and visceral, I felt I knew just what it must have been like to live through these events. There is no other book quite like this one.
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