Life after Life

After reading Heads You Win and The Fifteen Lives of Harry August, the concept of how one chance decision can rewrite someone’s life story fascinated me. Life after Life promised the same concept – a story about a young girl who is born and dies repeatedly, each time given the chance to do something different with her life.

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Unfortunately my excitement was dashed pretty early on when it came apparent that the story was going to be repetitive for a good solid chunk at the start. Upon dying and being born again, Ursula followed the same path, changing one small detail just so that she would live a little longer before dying again. It was apparent that Ursula was not learning anything but rather changed that small detail on the whim of a feeling. Once the cycle had somewhat stopped, the plot (playing fast and loose with the word ‘plot’ with this book) did not amount to much – more day to day activities of an assortment of characters. The narrative also had a tendency to jump around a fair bit, making it hard to keep track of times of exactly what was happening and when. At times it was convoluted and messy to navigate.

Which brings me on to the characters. Given the loose plot line, it was expected that the characters would be far more impressive. Sadly this was hardly the case. Despite the fact that Ursula was the protagonist, she felt colourless and rather bland. Or perhaps that’s unfair for me to say, considering that just little over quarter of the way (or perhaps more?) I ditched, therefore not even giving the chance of Ursula to fully blossom in to a character of wonder. Sylvie, on the other hand was rather irritating in a way – her constant negative attitude towards Izzie as she considers her to have loose morals, continued on even when it seemed that Izzie was trying to get her life together in some form. Quite a judgemental character to say the least, not to mention a complete hypocrite. Despite not finishing the book, it was pretty evident that Sylvie was displaying ‘loose morals’ herself. Suffice to say, in spite of being vocal about how a woman’s role is to be a wife and mother, Sylvie was far from nurturing. An extremely flawed character. As for the rest, they were rather forgettable.

Patience was required to read this one (is that a trend with Atkinson’s books – I swear I felt the same when ploughing slowly through Transcription) and in the end, I had run out long before I got a chance to turn the final page. Perhaps it dawned on me that unlike Ursula, I only have one chance at life and my time is finite, therefore perhaps it would be better spent on reading books I actually enjoyed rather than those that felt like I was wading slowly through some thick mud waist high.

Overall, disappointing is the word I would choose to describe my reading experience with this book. The plot was barely there, narration was messy and the characters bland.



P.S. Why did the man fall in to the well? He couldn’t see that well 😋


Freshwater was a devastatingly beautiful novel looking at the concept of having a fractured self. A deeply layered story that explored trauma, pain and sorrow in one of the most creative and perhaps unconventional way imaginable. The prose was incredibly rich and powerful. Although the narrative dealt with painful truths (and forced you to face these truths), at times it was uplifting; Asughara’s fierce protectiveness over Ada, Saint Vincent’s reassuring presence and Ada’s own determination and strength to heal.

Freshwater in many respects took patience to read; it wasn’t as straightforward as it first appeared to be despite the simplicity of the language and descriptions. Different tenses weaved in within each other and perspectives soon overlapped. Focusing more on Ada’s relationship with Asughara and Saint Vincent and development, not much was said about Ada’s life in the outside world bar glimpses throughout her college life. These were simply mentioned in passing.  There were different concepts and words thrown in with next to no context, which made it a confusing read at times and yet, the lyrical quality made it a compelling one.

There was something about the book that made it relatable and so very human. The whole concept of the self dividing and fragmenting itself as a means to ultimately protect itself was fascinating – something that made a lot of sense. And whilst different interpretations can be taken about this, mainly focussing on mental illness, it was refreshing to read it at face value and just immerse myself in Igbo culture and belief, dispelling all possible metaphors and hidden meanings.

I later found out, after finishing the novel in its entirety that it was largely perceived as being aroman à clef. This nugget of knowledge didn’t make me view the book any differently, but perhaps shattered me that little bit more.

I realise I’ve kept my musings brief on this one but that was completely intentional, lest I should give away spoilers. In a nutshell, a dark book full of pure and raw emotion. It forces you to confront pain whilst giving hope for healing and acceptance. 


This Green and Pleasant Land

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*Minor Spoilers Ahead*

After reading and falling in love with Sofia Khan is not Obliged and The Other Half of Happiness, I could not wait to pick up this book. This was a curious book –  a hodgepodge of thoughts and emotions were racing through my mind after turning the last page.

Multiple perspectives had been stitched together to form the narrative. However due to this, at the start the narrative felt disjointed and was trick to get used to. Yet, the continual shift of perspectives soon became more familiar. Throughout the book, a sense of community is portrayed; a community made up of a mishmash personalities that evoke a whole range of emotions that are constantly shifting as the story progresses and different elements of the plot came in to play.

The main plot revolves around the Hasham family. Bilal was a difficult character to understand; in many ways he could be viewed as a hapless hero (full of bundles of anxiety – every ‘difficult’ conversation was followed by a trip to the pharmacy) but equally in other respects a man of action. He had his own internal conflicts in regards to what it means for him to be Muslim, building the mosque and his somewhat confusing emotions towards his family especially Mariam.

Mariam presented as somewhat cold towards her marriage. As with Bilal, she had her own internal struggles, however, she seemed to evoke a lot less empathy than Bilal. Despite being so self – reflective coupled with looking up self – help videos, Mariam was incredibly passive – her lack of action was frankly surprising and irritating as she kept herself cocooned in a bubble of self – pity throughout, refusing to do something as simple as communicating with her own husband.

Let’s face it, no Asian family is fully complete without the usual entourage of aunties. Aunty Rukhsana (Khala) was an incredible and heart-warming character who perfectly illustrated that to understand one another emotionally, to form bonds and connections, language is not a necessity. She was someone who also tried her uttermost to fit in whilst maintaining her own culture and beliefs. Someone who was not scared what others thought of her and refused to be anyone but herself, but also acknowledged her own flaws and worked on them to become someone whom she was happy with. In short, she was downright inspiring.

As with any story, this one had its fair share of intolerable, ignorant and racist characters. The racism was both subtle and overt. Yet despite this, the characters were depicted to be so very human, making it somewhat easier to understand their point of view and thought processes. Unlikely friendships and connections were formed, whilst others became strained and fractured. The story deals with serious topics that people may find difficult and uncomfortable to discuss with a dash of humour and compassion. Amongst the moments of tension, there were moments of pure joy and laughter.

Grief was one of the themes that had been explored in this book. It was striking as to how Bilal’s and Anne’s grief were similar but in many more ways very different. How their grief had shaped their characters. Whilst Bilal’s grief had prompted him to accept change, fight against the grain and startle the sleepy village of Babble’s End in to tolerance, Anne’s had rather the opposite effect. Change was another theme that had been further explored.

Obviously the main question was whether the mosque was going to be built and how this change would come back. This was resolved in a disheartening albeit realistic way. On a more optimistic note, the ending gave hint to the community becoming more accepting of change.

In conclusion, this was a story that dealt with topics that need to be discussed more openly and widely in greater depth. It was upsetting knowing that what was portrayed in the story, in terms of intolerance and racism mirrors reality to a great degree. A worthwhile read while digging in to some zarda.

Until next time,

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

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Science fiction is a genre that I’ve always wanted to read more of considering how much I enjoyed ‘Doctor Who’. The premise got my attention coupled with the fact that Basil had previously enjoyed this book, which is always a good sign.

Given how the blurb had been written, I was under the impression that the story would by from Rosemary’s perspective and follow her as a protagonist. Yet this was not the case, which actually was a pleasant surprise. Characterization plays a big role in this book and it does not disappoint in the least. The whole crew was lovable in their own way (yes, even grumpy Corbin) and felt so real. They were all endearing and had vivid personalities. The secondary characters introduced briefly were also beautifully depicted. One aspect that was amazing to see was how each character had their own back-story and secrets. The novel was written from different perspectives, which was nicely done, giving the opportunity for readers to become properly acquainted with each crew member.

I loved how firstly the crew themselves were made up of different species but also how they came in to contact with other species upon their many stops. Even within humans, there appeared to be a divide, which was intriguing to explore. Each species is individualized and it is clear that thought had been put in to creating such a vast range of different species. Additionally, it was brilliant to read about such rich diversity and the fact that stereotypes prodded at so openly. This was downright refreshing.

“Do not judge other species by your own social norms”

Despite an overarching plotline having been established, the plot seemed to dip in and out of existence. It was a tad frustrating that when something did happen, it was resolved within a paragraph. The building of tension had just started, for it to be dissipated within the following paragraph, which was disappointing. However, an aspect that was simply incredible was that each character had his or her own moment to shine when peril did befall on the crew; each member of the crew was equally important and outstanding, from the captain to the AI system. More so, the novel was scattered with emotional moments that tugged on the heartstrings making the reading experience more wholesome.

Admittedly, a handful of the physics went straight over my head and at points there was information dumping happening that weighed the book down, however this was infrequent so it wasn’t too much of a big deal. And to be fair, the main concept of tunneling was an interesting one.

In a nutshell, this was a novel that was made up of loveable characters. Despite there being very little plot, it was a complete pleasure to read.

Happy New Year,