Thursday, March 20, 2014
A new author!
I had never even heard of Atkinson, until this book came out last year and got glowing reviews all over the place, which I thankfully read. The concept sounded interesting, or perhaps irritating: the main character, Ursula Todd, is born in 1910 to a middle-class British family. Sounds straightforward, no? Not at all. The book moves forward in time, then re-starts, over and over, imagining alternative lives -- and deaths -- for Ursula. In one, she strangles on the umbilical cord, and never survives her own birth. In others, she is killed by falls, diseases, war, and other grisly methods. In one, she even meets Hitler.
Although I feared it would be an off-putting gimmick, the technique works, and the story is deeply engrossing. Atkinson has an incredible eye for detail, and I don't think I've ever read a book that so clearly conveys what it would have been like to live in London through the Blitz. Ursula's lives are occasionally extraordinary, but mostly quite ordinary, and somehow the author manages to weave them together in a way that feels completely satisfying, plausible, and deeply moving.
So now I get to read other works by Atkinson, including her Jackson Brodie detective series. Yeah!