Life After Life is her latest novel--coming out in April. I was lucky to receive an ARC. This novel has so much in it, I can't possibly tell it all--and anyway, it would spoil the whole story if I did. So be prepared for lots of vagueness in this review. It's for your own good.
Ursula Todd is born during a snow storm in England in 1910. And she dies. Then she's born again, but this time survives. This happens repeatedly during Ursula's life--or lifetimes. And you keep going back and starting over again at a certain point in Ursula's life, where things are just a bit different--and so Ursula's life takes a different direction. I've likened this to an adult version of Create Your Own Adventure books, and for those who have no idea what they are--the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow. Just one change in a choice or a reaction starts Ursula on a whole new life path.
This novel is brilliant. Ursula and her family--her father Hugh, her mother Sylvie, her siblings--especially Pamela--are just such a wonderful group of people. Their comedic one-liners, their droll sense of humor, their obvious love for each other (except for Maurice--the eldest brother who is a complete boor) is so much a part of what makes this a book you can't put down. Taking place over 35 years--during World War I, and during World War 2, you see the progression of the family as the children grow up, move along in life, and struggle to survive in a world that seems to have gone mad.
And Ursula. I'm so glad I read about her early in the year, so I can think about her character all year and enjoy her spunk, smarts, and struggle to make sense out of what her life seems to be, but may not be. It's a dizzying swirl of what might have been and what could be. Her life is a prime example of how each one of us impacts those around us--how our actions can turn everything around to a happy outcome or a disaster. Happiness, bliss, or sadness and grief? Circles, circles, circles. Ripples in the water.
I loved this book. I have found another author to read! What an incredibly smart book to create. I can't imagine how hard it was to write this. It's like a writing exercise where you have to re-write the same scene over and over again, but change it each time in subtle but crucial ways. Amazing.
One more thing: you must be patient while reading this book. Do not give up. Just keep reading. You'll get into the rhythm quickly. Consider this a challenge for you this year. Just read it. Seriously. And reading groups? Hello. This will keep you talking for months.
Rating: 9/10 for sheer brilliance, wonderful characters you don't want to say good bye to, and just the right touches of comedy and seriousness.
Available in paperback, e-book, and audio.