On February 11, 1910, Ursula Todd was born on a snowy evening in Fox Corner, England. And then died. She was born again on the same date, and over the next several years, experienced a number of births and deaths.
Life After Life: A Novel is the story of those incarnations.
She is one of several siblings, born to Sylvie and Hugh Todd, with Maurice and Pamela as her elder siblings, and Teddy and Jimmy the younger ones.
The story is crafted in such a way that the reader realizes when these deaths and rebirths are occurring by a series of words, like “darkness falls;” and when a new chapter begins, the date that captions it tells us where the story of Ursula’s life will resume.
The first several chapters were tedious and repetitive, in my opinion, but then Ursula’s story seemed to take off and it was easier to follow. Sometimes it was quite a relief for another “death” to occur, as she managed to get into some horrific situations.
Occasionally I even forgot about the incarnations, and I liked how, even though Ursula did not realize what was happening to her, she had feelings of deja vu and a unique sixth sense that followed her throughout her life. And when the author brought Ursula into the settings of several historical events, like the Third Reich, and illustrated how someone can be swept away by such happenings, I could not stop turning the pages.
An enjoyable journey along the “roads not taken,” I would recommend this book to those who like to experience what might seem unimaginable. Personally, I would have liked fewer pages, since I got to the point where I wanted it to end already. But toward the end, I could not help but feel a sense of wonder at the continuous loop of life portrayed. And this statement by Ursula’s younger brother: “What if we had the chance to do it again and again,” Teddy said, “until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Indeed. 4 stars.