Claire North's novel is one of a number of works recently that have presented numerous different versions of the same person, all of which deserve attention.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is the story of Ursula Todd who is born one snowy morning in February 1910 and instantly dies, or she dies in the influenza epidemic after the First World War, or she is killed by a brutal husband, or she bombed in the Blitz, or she dies a lonely death in the 1970s. At each death, the story is reset back to that snowy February, and Ursula takes a different path in life. She doesn't remember her other lives, but there is an awareness that helps her avoid repetitions of the same death. Her lives are mostly ordinary, a mid-level clerk, an ARP warden in the war, but they work constantly towards a course of events in which her beloved brother is not killed in the war. Written with humanity, compassion and a wonderful eye for detail, this is an extraordinary account of one woman's lives in the 20th century.
My Real Children by Jo Walton differs from Atkinson's novel by starting not at the beginning of life but at the end. Patricia Cowan is an old woman in a nursing home whose memories seem incoherent and contradictory. Then we flash back to a fateful phone call when her boyfriend called to ask her to marry him. If she said yes, she entered a troubled marriage in which she raises four children but is disappointed in life, but the world is more peaceful than our own; if she said no, she developed a passion for Italy, wrote best selling guide books, and had a long-lasting lesbian relationship, but the world was less peaceful and more threatening. In both lives, she faces limitations and restrictions simply because she is a woman, which is what makes this such an interesting book.