Thursday, 18 September 2014

Kate Atkinson's Life after Life

 I mentioned this book, Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson before when I spoke about the wonderful food described throughout the novel. I am happy to write about it in a little more depth today.  What a good book it turned out to be.  I loved the writing style and even copied out a few phrases that caught my attention.  I gave up trying to sort out the deaths, near-deaths, and rebirths as the novel unravels, and just gave myself over to the wonderful language Kate Atkinson seems to have at her command. The many witty phrases and ideas expressed in a sentence or two made me smile.  I liked the mother and her reliance on set phrases to handle situations (reminds me of myself); at one point she says to her daughter (and I'm paraphrasing here), we all feel peculiar sometimes, that's why we must think happy thoughts. As if it were as simple as that! So she is often reminding her family "happy thoughts", or "needs must", or  "think of things of beauty" as advice for coping with the downs of life.
I loved how this book, while being easy to read, had layers of deeper meaning.  For instance, we are shown different plot lines for the main character depending on if this or that had not happened. I think Ms Atkinson was showing how any of us could live a very different life if we are subject to different circumstances, as well as making the point that many of those circumstances are beyond our control.   I liked how this author revealed to us through the eyes of her characters that history, both in the big picture (think war, Hitler and such), and also in our day to day lives, basically depends on a series of what ifs.  And, there is always the notion, inherent in all the little stories and vignettes as we follow the family through a few decades, what a fine line exists between living and dying.
The main thing is how we cope; what do we rely on within ourselves to deal with what life throws at us- misfortune, death, love and loss of love. That is the most important point of all.