What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny?
My take: 4 looks
No longer the most original premise for a book (see Replay by Ken Grimwood and 11/22/63 by Stephen King), this book builds a compelling story by putting a new spin in that the protagonist has no memory of the past when coming back as an infant.
Each chapter follows the birth and subsequent death of Ursula. I loved the way Atkinson built on each "life" by referring to past events, people and occasions. The weaving of decisions taking Ursula on different paths was so well done that it was seamless, causing a smile to come to my lips as I saw tragedy averted, only to be faced with a new crisis.
The age-old question is explored: if you could do it over again, would you? Much like King's take on the future if JFK had not been assassinated, the reader is struck by how events can be dramatically altered with the slightest change in the decision.
Beautifully written and a breath of fresh air in a land of zombies and vampires, I highly recommend this book.