Book Review by Sheree Combs: Books that take you back in time

Our January 2014 book club pick was Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. Several of us had heard that this novel was one of the best of 2013 and we wanted to see for ourselves.

This is a novel about the many restarts of the life of Ursula Todd. In our first encounter with Ursula it is November 1930 and she has walked into a restaurant where, Hilter, an acquaintance, is having cake with his comrades, she pulls out a gun and fires - fade to our second encounter with Ursula. It is a snowy February night in 1910, and the treacherous weather conditions have kept the doctor and midwife from arriving for the delivery of Ursula. Delivered by the fourteen year old maid, Ursula immediately dies. The next chapter is February 1910 again, but in this scenario the doctor has arrived just in time and Ursula lives until the age of five where she drowns in the ocean. Then we start at the birth of Ursula once again, in February 1910, but Ursula is able to prevent herself from drowning at age five and lives longer until she dies, again, and it starts all over. This was very confusing at first until you realize that each time Ursula is reborn, she senses that she needs to do something different and she changes the outcome of her life. By sensing that something bad is about to happen she changes the outcome of that life and lives longer each time. Part of her life involves around World War II and the devastation that is described is heart wrenching.

This book didn’t grab me as some books do and I wouldn’t classify it as one of the best of 2013 nor did the other members of our group but it did keep us reading to find out how Ursula’s life turns out after being restarted so many times.

At the library’s suggestion, we chose to participate in the 2014 One Book, One Community book event by reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This is a book that all the libraries around the area were to read as a community event in February.


This book was about the history of the great American dust bowl of the 1930s during the great depression, some of the families involved, what created the problem and how the problem was handled.

It was a historical recounting of this time period and was not as entertaining to read. This is probably why I was the only one to read it which didn’t lead to much discussion.

Another book I recently read, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (excellent book by the way) ,made a reference to the dust bowl of the 1930s so by reading The Worst Hard Time I was able to understand and visualize what was happening when the dust storm went through Washington state.

Sheree Combs is a member of the Fleetwood Library Book Club. The club reads different books monthly.