Rosie’s #Bookreview of #HistoricalFiction LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson

Life after LifeLife after Life by Kate Atkinson

4 stars

Life After Life is an unusual piece of historical fiction set in England.

I’m very late getting to this book by international best selling Kate Atkinson, which was the winner of the 2013 Costa award, but I’m glad that I finally made it. Actually this book has been on my bookshelf for ages; I don’t even recall where it came from.

Very simply, it is about the ‘what if you could go back and change your life’ question that most people have thought about at some point in their own lives. Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in 1910; sadly she dies that night―or does she? There follows multiple lives for Ursula, that dip back and forth between rebirth and death; all are parallel worlds that would have come to fruition had certain different decisions been made.  There is a particular focus on the World War Two period, portraying it from both sides.

Did I understand it all? No I didn’t, in fact it took me a good while to understand the format of the book and why we kept reading a different story about Ursula. I even got a little lost by the ending, but I can see that this would make an excellent book to discuss at a book group.

Did I like it? Yes, for the most part. I do like books that can portray the WW2 era without making me feel as if I’m in a history lesson. Overall, a good piece of fiction with an unusual twist on a linear format.

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Book description

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

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The World of #Espionage Rosie’s #Bookreview of Transcription by Kate Atkinson @TransworldBooks

TranscriptionTranscription by Kate Atkinson

4.5 stars

Transcription is historical fiction with three distinct settings. It is about a young women recruited by the secret service into the world of espionage. Juliet is primarily employed to type up voice recordings from meetings held by British Fascists during the second world war. But later, she is assigned to infiltrate The Right Club, a small group of anti-Semitic fascist sympathisers. All the action is seen through Juliet’s eyes, which are at times cynical but at others, quite innocent. Yet all through the book I was absorbed by the depth to the characters and the setting.

After the war, Juliet finds employment with the BBC and the second part of the story is set in 1950 where she is a producer of radio programmes for schools. She encounters one or two people from the war years, and her life appears to be recovering from her war-time experiences, but unexpectedly she receives a threating letter. Now, too many faces from her past return, leaving Juliet questioning which of them is a spy. Is it all just a coincidence? And, will Juliet ever be able to leave it all behind?

This story is about Juliet and how she negotiates the complexities of spies whilst returning to the mundane work of typing. It’s comical, mystical, dark at times, whilst also exposing the raw side of a country at war and the human nature of its people.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I was immediately absorbed by the writing style and equally hooked by the artistry of that writing. I particularly liked the author’s notes at the back, as they explain the basis for the storyline and were fascinating to read. You can tell the depth of research and understanding which went into this book. It all feels so real and I must remind myself that it is fiction. Recommended for those who enjoy the twists of espionage, but who are looking for something different from the genre.

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Book description

Transcription is a bravura novel of extraordinary power and substance. Juliet Armstrong is recruited as a young woman by an obscure wartime department of the Secret Service. In the aftermath of war she joins the BBC, where her life begins to unravel, and she finally has to come to terms with the consequences.

About the author

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.

Kate Atkinson

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