This is, first and foremost, a beautifully written novel. It is such a pleasure to start into a book and realize that you are in the hands of an expert writer - one who will steer you deftly through an interesting story without hazarding any mishap. Architecturally, this is a terrifically ambitious and daring piece of work. There are so many ways it could have gone wrong, and yet it does not. When I was a boy, I used to love reading a series of books called "Choose Your own Adventure." This reminded very much of a grown-up version. It's as if we are traveling through a maze of decisions, many of which end quite tragically, some just in a life unfulfilled. I am guessing that Kate Atkinson had a bit of trouble thinking just how she wanted to end the story - in what year, with what moment? The whole thing works because her characters are very endearing. We root for Ursula throughout the story, and remain very interested where this disjointed journey will lead her. Ursula is probably the most interesting and well written character I've read about this year.