Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Hard to make sense of the German material in Life After Life
The next "life" for protagonist Ursula Todd in Kate Atkinson's Life After Life finds her a 20-something living w/ a family in Germany in the 1930s and observing with cool indifference the various Nazi ceremonies and exhibitions, the song-spiels, the hiking clubs - only in her correspondence w/ sister Pamela does she get a bit of an understanding as to what's really going on. Oddly, she marries a German guy - we learn very little about him and virtually nothing about their marriage or courtship - but he seems somewhat skeptical about the Hitler youth, at least at first, but as he advances in his law career, we realize, he's becoming more of an apologist, at best. The novel takes an odd turn as, in 1939, Ursula is a young mother who's palling around w/, of all people, Eva Braun, and she gets invited to spend some time and the Berghof (?), Hitler's mountain retreat, where she has first-hand observations of Hitler. All very well for the novel - this whole segment would seem completely out of whack w/ everything else we know about Ursula except for the very short first chapter, which gave us a hint, and I wonder what possible insight she, or Atkinson, can provide into Hitler's life and into the atrocities of Nazi Germany. This is by no means a spy novel or a war novel (the sequel, A God in Ruins, is very much a war novel, from the POV of a fighter pilot), and this whole German section of Life After Life seems odd, out of character rather than a stage in character development - possibly because we have read so many chapters about Ursula's life in London during the war that made no reference to a time in Germany, a German husband, the birth of a son - let alone hanging around at Nazi hq, that even in this unconventionally plotted novel it's hard to make sense of and incorporate this material.