Kate Atkinson is such an imaginative writer and has again produced an intriguing, multi-layered story that explores different scenarios for the characters that pivot on a single event or choice in their lives that leads to quite different outcomes. There's an undercurrent of mysticism over the possibility of re-incarnation and the notion that time is fluid such that the past and future can intrude into the present.
The narrative switches back and forth in time from 1910 to 1967. You might think that this would be confusing in an audio book, but this is not the case: The time periods are clearly sign-posted and the characters seem so familiar that one remembers what happened to them in the other scenarios. The book is rich in period detail, particularly those during the Second World War. I was sorry when the book finished as I had felt so absorbed by the characters lives and made to think about how ones life can change direction in an instant.
The narrator is very good.
I've listened to two and read another of the Nicci French books. Latterly I've discovered that it's a husband and wife writing team. I've enjoyed them all, but have to say the savagery of the descriptions of murder and torture in them did rather give me the creeps. In contrast, "What to Do when Someone Dies" is much more of a thriller in the same sort of style as Robert Goddard. There is some murder in it but there are no gory descriptions. Instead it's mainly a widow's quest to find the truth over how here husband died. The authors' write sensitively about what it's like to lose someone you love and how it feels if you fear that person was deceiving you. The story is a real roller-coaster of clues and false leads and I certainly didn't see how it would end and couldn't stop listening to find out what happened next. Highly recommended.
After nearly 20 hours of listening I feel I've been literally and metaphorically on an epic journey that I'm sorry has come to an end. The author has skilfully woven together history, religion and sorcery with the stories of people escaping from their pasts and the fear of the Black Death that draws together this disparate group of people to travel hither and thither trying to escape the pestilence. Rather like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, we learn something of the characters' backgrounds through the telling of their fascinating stories that enliven the basic narrative of their efforts to find the basics of life in a country ravaged by death. The reader of this long book deserves great credit for his contribution as he brings a large number of characters vividly to life and enhances the experience of listening.