23 December, 2015

'Life after Life' and second hand books

I recently finished reading 'Life after Life' by Kate Atkinson, which I really enjoyed and highly recommend. It centres on a character called Ursula, who is born in England in 1910. The key premise is really that there are different courses that our lives might take, dependent on what happens at particular points in time. This might sound like a truism, but in Ursula's case, we see her life pan out in multiple ways, multiple times. In one version of her life, she dies at birth, the umbilical cord strangling her with the midwife stuck in snow and so unable to attend. In another, she survives infancy, only to die falling from a window in pursuit of a doll that her brother has thrown out. In another she she meets and marries an abusive man, who eventually kills her. In yet another she doesn't meet this man, but works as an air raid warden during the second world war and is killed by a falling bomb. And so on.

The story is intricate, remarkably clever and makes you think. What happens in one's life really is, to a large extent, a matter of fate, no matter how much control we may feel we have over events. In addition, the story paints a vivid and fascinating picture of what it was like to live through the second world war.

'Life after Life' was published in 2013, so I have come to read it a bit late. But this is because I picked the book up second hand in Oxfam. I have recently discovered the joy of books on sale in charity shops. I love reading and I like to own my own copies, but with most books priced at around £8 now, this can sometimes be hard to justify. I was in Oxfam buying Christmas wrapping paper the other day and by chance went across to browse the books. I came away with three for less that £6, all of which were good reads. So, I'm now a second hand book convert!

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