Received: Received a copy from Random House of CanadaRelease Date: April 2, 2013
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On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, 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 any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.
Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.
Atkinson tells the story of Ursula Todd, a child who is born on a snowy day and dies right away. In the next chapter, Ursula is born and lives. From there we follow along as Ursula grows and lives her life in different ways. She continually dies and comes back to life again to change her life and her future. The story starts out slow as Atkinson introduces each of the characters to you and really has her readers get to know Ursula and her family. But there is a certain point in this story where Atkinson draws her reader in and at that point I found I couldn't turn away from Ursula's story.
What I really loved about this story was the way Atkinson makes her readers think about their own future. The smallest change in the past has such a large impact on the future, and I really enjoyed seeing the different futures that Ursula has and how it affects her thoughts in the past. This is the type of book that requires quite a lot of focus to understand how Ursula changes and focusing on the back and forth of the time changes.
Atkinson's characters were the best part of this book for me. Each of them is so unique and I loved the interactions they have with one another. I loved following Ursula's different paths as she learns from her mistakes and grows in so many different ways. Her character changes so much over time and Atkinson has such a beautiful way of highlighting the differences of her character. But there are the few things that never change from time and time, and those are her relationships with her family. Teddy and Pamela were my favourite of the family, their interactions with Ursula in every life were adorable and I loved how they were always there for one another.
Atkinson also had great villains in the story, the way Atkinson writes the characters of Ursula's mother and her brother Maurice were the types of characters that you could see some love (well more you could see the difference in her relationship with Sylvie, her mother). Maurice being the oldest of the siblings was so different and very much on his own throughout the book.
The big question that this book really brings to light is continually asked by characters, but I loved the conversation that Ursula and Teddy have at the end of the book where Teddy says "What if we had the chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right?" (pg. 403 in ARC) But as I was reading I kept thinking, how do we know what is the right life? Does Ursula know which life was really the best for her, and can we even actually live a perfect life? This book really brings up a lot of interesting questions for the readers, and my take on the way Atkinson wrote this story is that there is no such thing as a perfect life, there is always problems.
Atkinson's writing is so beautiful and descriptive, and I really loved her thoughts on the war that she brings up in her story as well, adding in some historical fiction really added to this book. I think this is one book that needs to be picked up by everyone, but that it is one I think readers need to take their time with so that they can really take in every little thing that Atkinson brings up in Ursula's story.