Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
Part way through Kate Atkinson's bravura novel, she says of her protagonist who keeps dying and being born again:
Ursula remembered being an avid reader of fairy tales as a child. She had put great faith not so much in the happy ending as in the restoration of justice to the world.
It's a lovely clue as to the author's intentions for the work. She's exploring the themes of justice and Destiny with a capital 'D'. Also, there are enough fairy tale animal names in this book to fill a zoo -- Mrs. Haddock, Fox Corners, Mrs. Woolf, Teddy. . .
And about three quarters of the way through, we have this:
If she could go back in time and take a lover from history it would be Donne. Not Keats, the knowledge of his untimely death would color everything quite wretchedly. That was the problem with time travel, of course (apart from the impossibility) -- one would always be a Cassandra, spreading doom with one's foreknowledge of events. It was quite wearyingly relentless but the only way that one could go was forward.
Considering that Urusla's story does in fact keep looping back to the time prior to when a particular decision set her on a particular path, or, actually, a variety of paths, all of which Atkinson eventually investigates; and that she does eventually have at least a glimmer of this fact, Atkinson is playing with us here, just as she, as the author, plays with her characters. Something all authors do, of course, although perhaps not right out in the open like this, where everyone can see. It's delightful.
I admit to being slightly perplexed at Atkinson's choice for a final scene and would love to know what others thought . . . a sequel? Another line of destiny?
There is a very good review of the book here at The Guardian.