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
The reader was excellent. Unfortunately, the material, although well-written, was a frustrating read. Repeating the same story with different ways to die was exceptionally confusing and in many cases, boring.
The World War II era in England is a fascinating period in history. If the writer had kept to one story line instead of adapting several permutations of how the heroine, Ursula, would have died had events gone differently was a complete disappointment.
The descriptions of living during the bombing blitz in London was well done.
Thank goodness in real life we die only once.
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.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, I love to learn about a great many things, and I enjoy a wide variety of genres. Me, bored? Never!
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.
The story turned out to be an interesting concept. It is about the same person reliving her life in different situations or having made different decisions. It was indeed thought provoking. But the descriptions of different horrible situations were too graphic for me.
Once you realize that this is not written in linear time it becomes a beautifully knitted tale of what might have beens.
I love books.
It took me a little while to really latch on Ursula's character, but then all of a sudden I just did. The writing is beautiful and the main thing I got from this book is a real feel for life in England before and during WWI and WWII. We get to see the Todd family, primarily Ursula, going through middle/upper-class English life. There is an element of "genre fiction" in this as Ursula dies repeatedly, but keeps getting to re-do her life.
One of the things I loved about this book was getting to see how one incident or event can take someone's life down a very specific path. While it was interesting getting to see Ursula's life go in a couple very different directions, I was also fascinated by the very small differences that occurred in lives of Ursula's that were very similar to others, but for small changes that were interesting to discover.
I enjoyed this book in a similar way to Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. I felt that even though there were elements of both author's works that were fantastic in some way (time travel in the case of Willis' books, and repeated reincarnation in the case of Atkinson's) it was easy for the reader to get a strong idea of what it was like to live in that time period and in those places.
The narrator was a perfect fit for this book. From the beginning it felt like the exact right person was telling this story.
I will most definitely be seeking out more books by this author, and would gladly listen to this narrator read to me again.
Atkinson is one of my favorite writers. I read this novel and listened to it at the same time. For those unused to jumps in time, the storytelling may be tricky to follow in audio alone. But once one gets the gist of how the narrative works, it ought to be fine.
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