Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Life after Life (copy)

Just like a child who watches the same Disney video over and over, I am drawn to Kate Atkinson’s new book Life after Life. She tells the story of Ursula Todd, born one cold night in 1910 outside of London, who starts and stops her life in fits. 

The book opens in 1930 with Ursula entering a smoke filled German café. “A regiment of white-aproned waiters rushed around at tempo, serving the needs of the Münchner at leisure – coffee, cake and gossip.” She lightly shakes the rain from her fur wrap. 

In the corner he sits eating a slice of Kirschtorte. He loves his sweets. She thinks he will be diabetic one day already sliding more towards mushy than muscle. He sees her and smiles, “Guten Tag, gnädiges Fraülein.” 

He makes a wave motion with his hand and the current bootlicker rises from his chair next to the Führer making room for her. 
As she crosses the room towards him she notices an intruder to the familiar group. The platinum blonde wore heavy makeup and her perm close like the new Hollywood sensation, Jean Harlow. Could it be?

Was his taste changing? He normally preferred a wholesome type, less flashy and more Bavarian. “All those dirndls and kneesocks, God help us.” He spoke to her, “Unsere Englische Freündin.” The blonde followed the smoke she exhaled earlier with her eyes as she responded with, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” He turned back to Ursula uninterested as she placed her heavy purse on the floor and took the warmed seat. 

Ursula ordered a drink and made a comment about the rain. He agreed and insisted she try the Pfaumen Streusel. Things were normal, he was happy and the Streusel was delicious. She reached down to retrieve a handkerchief from her bag. The lacy affair was a birthday present from her sister, Pammy. She dabbed lightly at her lips displaying her monogram UBT.

With the next move, she changed history. Placing her gift back in the bag, she retrieved the heavy Webley Mark V revolver and aimed. Her heart stopped only for a second as guns were jerked out and aimed at her. “One breath. One shot. Darkness fell.” 

The next opening scene is Ursula’s birth in 1910. We revisit this 1910 scene over and over in chapter after chapter because little Ursula dies rather often and we all know it is very important that she live to make the ultimate sacrifice.

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