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

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Patience is rewarded for those who persist when reading Life After Life

Reading further into Kate Atkinson's Life After Life the novel further examines the sorrowful after-effect of the trauma that Ursula suffered as a naive teenager: raped in a back stairwell in her family home by her brother's loutish "friend," pregnant and completely unaware of any facts about pregnancy or childbirth, led to an abortion clinic by her free-spirit Aunt Izzie, nearly dying of blood poisoning following the procedure - terrible stuff, narrated with great vividness. And then the deluge - her long depression, leaving school even though she was apparently a very capable student, enrolling in a tedious secretarial college to learn shorthand, taking a menial job where she feels alone (she is alone), serious bout of alcoholism that she manages to overcome when she meets a young man and falls in love - everyone had begun to expect she would never marry - the shame she still bears about her experience, and then the domineering nature of her husband, everything on his terms, not obvious in the courtship but becoming more apparent to her, and to us, after the marriage. It's a very sad narration - much more so than the sequel A God in Ruins - but wisely Atkinson gave us a hint at the start that Ursula would not go down easily, that she might even have an important role to play in WWII, perhaps as a spy in Germany? It took a while for this novel to get its bearings - so many characters introduced quickly, w/out a lot of back story, lots of cross-cuts in time sequence, and Atkinson's peculiar obsession w/ killing key characters and then bringing them back to narrative life - but patience is rewarded as thenovel builds in gravity and dramatic tension as it moves along.

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