The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser

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The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Holly Lewtas
Reviewed by Holly Lewtas
Summary: An eye-opening novel that takes you all over the world as you read the story of several distinct characters.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 978-1760296704

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The Life to Come tells the story of several interesting characters who are all linked by one person: Pippa. The novel is split into five chapters with each one focusing on a different person, from Cassie and her bizarre relationship with Ash to George who has finished his thesis and is in the process of writing his first novel. Pippa, who is also a writer, appears in each of these chapters, in some cases just as a background character. However, what I found most fascinating about this novel was that de Kretser tells the story of Pippa's life through all these various appearances and leaves the reader with a real sense of who she is as a person and having watched her development as a character.

As I write this review I am faced with quite a conundrum because certain aspects of this book left me completely in awe of de Krester's writing style, from her astounding descriptions of Paris to sudden, staggering moments of comedy that crop up as the novel progresses. Yet, there is a large portion of this novel that I simply didn't enjoy.

What appealed to me most about this book was the way in which you are told the story of many related characters, I was drawn to it straight away due to my love of other works that follow a similar structure. But, I found it shocking that none of the characters were likeable. De Krester does not romanticise any aspects of how we as people act nor does shy away from complex topics such as multiculturalism. Instead, she presents you with a series of flawed characters which then leaves the reader facing a difficult prospect. You do not feel any empathy or compassion towards these characters and it is up to you on how you allow this to influence your opinion, and the tone, of the rest of the novel.

A key issue I found with this novel was the way in which a lot of shifts take place in terms of time and characters. This made it incredibly difficult to read as you can be reading the thoughts of one character, then jump to another day concerning a different character and before you know it you are reading about what happened years later. Not only this but I couldn't understand what the author was trying to express at times; I felt that de Kretser tried so hard to make this novel as exquisitely written as possible, filled with metaphors, that it had an adverse effect, forcing the reader to go back and read several paragraphs repeatedly to make sense of them.

Ultimately, this book will either enthral you or will leave you struggling to get to that last page. For me, it was the latter. Nevertheless, I can see how it has the potential to be a mesmerising read for many people. It is not a light read and will require time to really understand de Kretser's intelligent and alternative way of writing, but I would urge everyone to give this book a go so they can form their own judgements about it.

A similar novel with a festive theme that I would recommend is Last Christmas by Julia Williams.

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Buy The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser at


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