Study Guide

Life After Life Déjà Vu

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Déjà Vu

The Sensation That You Are Doing Something You Have Done Before 

Atkinson could have called this book A Glitch in the Matrix, but we're glad she didn't. Keanu Reeves wouldn't have made a good Ursula.

As Ursula lives and relives her many lives, she sometimes has weird feelings of past lives. While she doesn't remember exactly what happened, she gets a strange feeling in a situation where she's died before, and she's able to make changes to alter her course. Cool trick, right?

Bridget thinks that Ursula has "the second sight" (17.4) because of her way of anticipating the future. But the more Ursula lives and relives, the more familiar everything becomes, and she feels strange more often. Sylvie, who has no tolerance for strange thoughts (she loves to deny her way into happiness), tells Ursula "It's a trick of the mind" (17.1) and to "think sunny thoughts" (17.1). Ursula tries to describe her memories as "a cascade of echoes. Could echoes cascade?" (20.44), showing us that even she doesn't really understand how it works.

Eventually it gets to be too much, and Sylvie takes Ursula to see Dr. Kellet, who explicitly talks about reincarnation, déjà vu, fate, and "amor fati" (22.107) (which is basically fancy for accepting fate). This conversation ends up serving a dual purpose. On one hand, it gets Ursula obsessed with her fate and trying to control it, but eventually she realizes that while she can acknowledge her fate, she also has to channel her inner Disney princess and just let it go. Despite knowing what's going to happen, she can't always do something about it.

Déjà vu, then, doesn't just represent Ursula's repetitions of life, since how she relates to that feeling tracks how she relates to this experience of living over and over again. In other words, it's definitely more than a feeling.

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