Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

It is good to find a book which is philosophically interesting as well as being a good read and well written and this one hits the spot. I think it was Leibniz who came up with the idea of parallel universes and there has been a lot of stuff about metaverses since. The general idea is that if you have a choice then the thing you didn’t choose has to exist as otherwise you didn’t have a choice because what happened was predetermined. There seems to be some recent stuff in quantum physics which posits the same effect. Anyway that is the conceit at the heart of this novel that the world is constantly unrolling in an infinite number of ways. In addition, I think this novel is suggesting that there is a kind of battle between some gargantuan moral forces taking place against the background of the rise of Nazism which also echoes Liebniz who argues that what we see as reality is the best of all the possible universes (guaranteed by God he says but with his fingers crossed behind his back). So you can’t help hoping that the outcome of a large number of deaths and reruns will be positive. I’m not sure it is though.

As well as the ideas Kate Atkinson is a good writer, nice and economical with words and some apt descriptions. The multiple versions make the London blitz and its horrors worse with the quality of a nightmare so that just when you think it is okay, bang you’re right back in it.

If there is a criticism there is rather a lot of plot wrapping up at the end of the book. I’d have been happy with some loose ends but that’s a small negative and this is a great book if not a classic. You can read it again, but it might be different then you’d worry!


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