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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Characters die and then live again and at some point, what's the point, Kate Atkinson?

Kate Atkinson continues to develop the narrative line of Ursala's marriage to the domineering lout Derek, as she gradually he's a phony and liar, and he becomes increasingly abusive, going beyond the verbal abuse and throwing food around the kitchen, then slapping her hard, then punching her in the face, at which outrage she finally leaves him and shows up at her Aunt Izzie's house in London, her place of refuge. Derek tracks her down there, suspects she's been "fornicating" with another man (the man in the house w/ her is her brother Teddy) and smashes her head against a coffee table, twice - killing her. An extremely powerful section of Life After Life, and yet, two things: I kind of wish she had bad enough alone; I know there are wife-abusers who become pathological killers, but really that's such an extreme case and in fact not in keeping w/ Derek's pathetic, victimized personality. The section would have been more powerful I think he she left it as physical abuse rather than homicide. Second, readers will not be surprised by this point but Ursula's "death" becomes another plot point in Atkinson's continued un-doing of her own narration. Yes, we get the point, characters in novels aren't real people and authors authors make decisions about their characters' fates all the time during the writing process, authors are God-like, but at some point what's the point? We do want the author to make those decisions, to hold the mirror up to nature, even a cracked mirror, so I find myself frustrated as we move on to the next section in which Ursula punches her assailant, Howie, in the nose, therefore no rape, no pregnancy, no abortion, no 10 years of guild and misery and bad marriage and abuse and death - rather, a smart young woman sets off her career, plays some kind of role in the Home Office during WWII, and then - in one of the bombing attacks on London, dies in the sub-basement of her apartment building, or should I say "dies"?

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