Life after Life.
I'm a big fan of Kate Atkinson, but when I first read the book I wasn't sure what to make of it. Now, though, I'm starting to get it. It's stayed on my mind, and it's chimed with so much else I've been pondering on.
Without giving too much away, it's the life story – or several life stories – of one woman, who somehow manages to live several lives (and die several deaths) in the course of the book. It's about possibilities and choices and wrong turnings and 'what ifs'. In fact, it's a middle-aged person's book.
Kate Atkinson is a bit older than me. Which means she was probably my age (mid-50s) when she wrote it. And I've been having a lot of those conversations with myself this year.
Like watching a Science Club show about 'hacks' which is not what you think it is but (the way they told it anyway) about doing cool new things with stuff, that could make the world a better place. And thinking, just for a moment, I wish I was 13 again... I could do that. Remembering I nearly did science A levels at school, wondering how things would have turned out if I'd chosen that path. Perhaps I could have been doing cool things to make the world a better place.
Or wondering how my life would have gone if I had done Oxford entrance in the 6th form (as planned) instead of having my first episode of depression. Perhaps I would have ended up better off, or more successful (or a snob). Perhaps I could have made the world a better place, or myself a better life.
Or wondering about all the moments when I could have been braver, and wasted less time, and done more and been more.
There's so much I could have done with my life. I've never been very good at choosing. I still don't really know where I want to live, or what I want to do when I grow up.
I know there's still time to do a lot, if I'm lucky. I know, too, that some paths are now closed. I try not to have regrets. But the older I get, the more insistent the 'what if' becomes.
Kate Atkinson, I applaud you for turning this into art.