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Must do’s: What we like this week

BOOKS

Laura Miller was impressed by Kate Atkinson's "Life After Life," in which protagonist Ursula Todd "lives any number of lives in the course of the book," à la Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day":

As a result, “Life After Life” runs through several courses of Ursula’s story until each comes to its terminus, then the novel starts over with a different one. Perhaps this sounds monotonous, like some hellish video game in which you’ve got to repeat a level again and again to make it to the next. That’s not the case. “Life After Life” is a hypnotic dance of causality and chance, in which Ursula makes genuine progress. We see how a meek Ursula’s life plays out when one of her boorish older brother’s friends casually rapes her in the back stairway, and then we get the version in which she’s seized with a powerful urge to clock him the minute he gets fresh. Each iteration shows her to be more self-possessed, more in charge of her own life (as the cliché goes) — but that doesn’t necessarily lead to a “better” outcome. Meanwhile, Ursula moves toward that inevitable time-traveler imperative, the one that gave its name to a “Doctor Who” episode: “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

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