- back after a few holidays and a lot of reading, to the news that A M Homes has won the Prize Formerly Known As Orange, for her dark satire on American life, May We Be Forgiven. There was a very strong shortlist, which included Zadie Smith’s NW, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and of course, Bring Up the Bodies.
I haven’t read the Homes yet, but enjoyed her previous novel, This Book Will Save Your Life, which was sharp, witty and original, so I’m looking forward to it.
Of the books on the list which I have read (and putting aside the Mantel which is indisputably superb), I found Life After Life completely engrossing and satisfying. Some reviewers complained that they couldn’t suspend their disbelief, as the story of Ursula Todd is told and retold in dozens of different ways, exploring various possible outcomes at different stages of her life, but Atkinson’s easy, controlled prose and the reader’s instant absorption in Ursula’s vividly realised life, her family and the times she lives in carry the narrative swiftly along. This is terrific storytelling. As Helen Brown remarked, in the Daily Telegraph:
I became so addicted to seeing how Ursula’s different decisions and experiences shaped her family that I have no idea how Atkinson managed to stop herself writing…This is Atkinson’s best book to date..
Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, agreed that this book was Atkinson’s ‘very best’, and commented that it was:
an exceptionally captivating book with an engaging cast of characters. “Life After Life” is a big book that defies logic, chronology and even history in ways that underscore its author’s fully untethered imagination.