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?
Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original - this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.
©2011 Kate Atkinson (P)2013 Hachette Audio
As I entered the book, almost immediately I drew in my breath in a gasp at the beauty of the writing, the narration...knew that I was in the hands of a fine literary artist and was ready for a momentous ride. From the title one knows that the main character, Ursula, will die often so I was not emotionally harmed by her multiple sudden deaths but set my mind to watch how her life "repeats" related or built to the point where she "gets it right"...and what the author's vision of getting it right would be. Unfortunately after the flow and glow of her first 8 or so life repeats, to me, the book totally loses focus and gets tedious. Still, I plunged on trusting that no matter how boring, the author was leading to a point..any point that might be interesting and even hoped for a little moment of awe. The reader knows there will be a critical scene with Hitler from the get go. It takes forever to get back to that moment of choice...gets there then ends as though it never happened. Huh? Many of the characters know they are repeating their lives to varying degrees, yet nothing interesting is deduced after the reader knows this is happening. Did you think Ursula got it right in the end...the very strange, silly Hollywood ending? Did the end make any sense whatsoever? It is worth a read as it is great writing, you will meet people you like and there are vignettes of the bombing of London that are fabulous, but don't expect any awe and prepare to be disappointed.
I loved this book so much. The characters are likable and realistic, and I found myself rooting for their success immediately.
Very enjoyable voice and inflection.
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This book kept coming up in my Goodreads recommendations so when it finally became available in Audible I snatched it up.
What a letdown! It felt like more like a collection of short stories with the same cast, but no solid plot.
Sure it was interesting to hear details about the same events from different points of view, and I have to admit that it did grow on me as it went along, but ultimately I was expecting something much more compelling and was left disappointed.
Say something about yourself!
My lack of "full" enjoyment for this book is probably a combination of factors. I'm well-versed in the idea of parallel universes and multiple versions of the same characters thanks to a lifetime of comic books, and I went through this book on the heels of a James Bond novel, which is himself a character with many different incarnations, so that helps to illustrate my mindset. So why read this one? I try to shake things up and read something "literary" every so often because I do enjoy variety. And nothing says variety quite like parallel dimensions. Imagine my disappointment when the potential of parallel universes in a novel like this is limited to the mundane and boring.
That's not to say there isn't something about this book to enjoy. As a character study, this is very well done (within its rather limited scope), until you get towards the end, at which point it disintegrates into nonsense because the author clearly hasn't read enough comic books to help her solidify what this idea might be about. High concept is one thing, but if you can't express your idea fully, regardless of medium, the idea comes across as rather pointless. This book is probably for those who aren't immersed in the fantastical and rather gimmicky nature of whatever it is the author is attempting to explore.
On those lines, I feel like the author is trying to say that this potential for all of us to have multiple versions of ourselves exist, but there is only one version that is "perfect." I find that to be extremely cynical and depressing. It's pretentious. And if I'm misinterpreting that, then Ms. Atkinson has my apologies.
For me, the shining point of this book is the writing style. Atkinson's prose is lyrical and enjoyable, but it just feels like the most beautiful voice in the world is singing the phone book. The very nature of the story is that it could go quite literally anywhere, and it goes to a great many versions of nowhere instead. This is made worse by the fact that our multiverse protagonist shoots Hitler in the opening scene. After a promising start like that, you'd think there would be something incredible in there. I didn't expect this to be an action novel, but I expected more variety from the concept. Instead, it's shades of bleh. What a letdown.
I should have read some of the reviews so I knew right up front what to expect - overall I found it very hard to follow and even harder to "get into" since by the time I'd get comfortable in the new setting it would change again. The performance is great and nice to "listen" to - but didn't make it one bit easier to figure out where/what/when....
Numerous different story lines, nothing but death to hold them together. No over arching redemptive action to explain the purpose? I held out hope to the end but felt very let down making it to the end.
I suspect that reading this story would have made the jumping around in time a little easier to follow. The premise was very interesting, and though the actor's voice was easy to listen to, I kept getting lost in which part of the story we were in.
Well I sure got a small idea how her brand of re-incarnation can be. While I have had enough of the first reading, this is probably a book I will read again when I want to feel my head spinning. I can't really rate it the way I want because the author deserves more stars just for putting it together. It cover's every mother's nightmares over accidents that might happen to their children then goes on to what coulda, woulda, will be. Enjoy if you like a mental roller coaster.
Such a great book! So glad to have found it, ineresting, captivating throughout! Pay attention though or you'll have to back and reread the previous chapter! But, even still, so worth it!
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