It took me one evening and two afternoons to complete Kate Atkinson's masterpiece. I consumed it hungrily. I have not been so excited about a book since Boyden's The Orenda. What is so brilliant about this book is not just its unique concept but the fact that its plot and characters stop it from getting bogged down in the 'high fiction' premise.
The story of Ursula Todd and her family enduring the two wars was material enough to keep one page turning and interested. Ursula is a riveting character. She is so weird. Observant, intelligent and yet socially awkward, she doesn't fit into the strong stereotypical roles society would place on her like her fellow brothers and sisters. She fights the norm. Even when she conforms it is not fully and there is something interesting about her take on it - whether it be working as a secretary but sleeping with the married higher power. BUT, it is not just the fiction that keeps you turning. It is the premise - the idea of giving one multiple choices at life. Ursula has the gift of reincarnation. We watch as she dies and returns again to the same moment that shaped her death only to take a different path. Over and over again she dodges deaths and returns reliving the events of her pasts only to react slightly differently and veer off in a different direction to face a different fate. AMAZING!
I began reading on Saturday afternoon. Exhausted from a day out I went for a nap. Picking up the book to read a couple of chapters before dozing off, but dozing off never came. I read and read until I was prompted to change for dinner... needless to say I was pissed off at the intrusion. So when Monday came... a day off... no visitors... the house quiet I dove into the book on the sofa at 2 and didn't move until 7! INCREDIBLE! The only reason I didn't avoid TidyBoy and escape with the book under the covers on Monday night was because I wanted to keep the enjoyment of reading Ursula for longer. Going to work on Tuesday I was literally counting down the minutes. I skipped out of work and into the apartment and cracked the spine. I was only disturbed as Ursula hit old age and the sun streamed into the lounge making me feel guilty! I grabbed a jacket and took the last few chapters to the park where I gorged on the final words and the sun.
So I found the only fault with the book in the last 20 pages. Atkinson had perfectly formed every section of Ursula's life. Every scenario, every death, every path taken was perfect and fully formed and completely enveloping. However, the last few scenarios were rushed. They seemed thrown together and brushed over. I wanted more. I wanted each of those other scenarios to be fully developed and once again fully enveloping which they weren't. But I guess... a novel has to end somewhere... I just feel like Atkinson could have stopped 20 pages earlier.
I cannot wait to start "A God in Ruins"!