The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

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What a read and totally wasn’t what I expected, I was lost in the beginning a little bit but I still felt drawn to the story. 
I haven’t read a book written like this for a while, I enjoyed it. The characters were believable and even I was convinced the all these lives had been lived.
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Do you remember the first time you realise you could have just died? For me it’s probably when I’m around 8 and after a tantrum with my parents I escaped through the front door and ran across the road; and a car braked just in front of me.  My first oh s*** moment. And in a quantum multiverse I wasn’t so lucky what would have happened if I wasn’t here to my family, my friends and so on? Alyson Rudd takes this idea and creates a compelling emotional tapestry of different timelines where people have to grapple with the consequences of life and death.

Lauren is a fairly typical kid in 70’s Cheshire; loves art; her family and friends and has just one strange ability.  She on occasions sees ‘beams’ shimmering shafts of reflective matter that when she looks through them, she sees a different world; variations of people she knows – but as she grows up, she forgets this. Then on her first ever holiday away from home a traffic accident breaks her neck. In one universe this leaves her devastated parents Bob and Vera trying to piece their lives together; in another Lauren awakes in hospital and is disconcerted that she seems to have different memories. The book then covers multiple timelines  - Lauren grows up to be an Art Student in 80’s London and finds love and a career; her father Bob in another universe suffers a second loss with the death of wife and has to find himself again and two further timelines develop as the story progresses. In some the US gets a right wing female president decades early; Mrs Thatcher never becomes PM and in another there are no such thing as cats but the key linking theme is every time Bob’s employer who was always a good friend to the family vanishes and Lauren always gets drawn to trying to solve this.

I really do like the concept and the way Rudd creates these alternate worlds.  I definitely recognise these aspects of Cheshire and Merseyside plus the feel of the 80’s. the various versions of Lauren e all encounter manage to keep the ‘core’ of her character but also show the way different experiences shape her life. The scenes where various characters have to deal with the Loss of Lauren really hurt and capture that theme of grief and moving on (or not) that pull you into seeing what happens to the characters.  

But I think I found it a curious mix of perhaps not fully exploring the concept and also breaking it. There is a whole section with Bob suffering the loss of Lauren and Vera that I found quite unsatisfying – partly as there is no reason for this concept of the universe splitting off and also it’s a very ‘middle class midlife crisis’ feel that I just don’t feel belongs to the main story. At the same time Lauren’s life only has a few life and death moments so we really seem to get a middle-class life versus a working-class motherhood. The focus on motherhood is quite a strong one in the novel and feels a bit limiting in terms of scope. The counterpoint of the constantly disappearing Peter Stanning is a sensible counterpoint, but the ultimate explanation never really works for me.

I will be fascinated to see how Rudd develops as an author as think their writing style and ideas are really standout but ultimately, I could not walk away fully satisfied with this novel.  It’s always good to see a literary look at an SF trope but it feels like it’s playing safe when it could have gone full throttle.
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This is such a fascinating novel that follows Lauren Pailing through multiple alternate lives. Each time she dies a new life begins for the people that loved her. So the further into the book you get the more strands of each version of Lauren’s life are being followed. It may sound complicated but it was actually really easy to follow each life as it quickly becomes clear where you are in each particular strand. In each of Lauren’s lives a man has disappeared and she is convinced that she needs to find him. In time versions of Lauren begin to have memories of a life she didn’t live but another version of her did and this is where the novel got really interesting for me, I loved the way the author explored how other versions of us might still be a part of us on some level. The novel explores themes of relationships, grief and parenting in such a sensitive way. This is such a stunning novel and one that has really stayed with me since I read it. I’m already excited to read whatever Alyson Rudd writes next!
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Unfortunately this book was not for me. I enjoyed the premise of the book and the blurb and cover drew me in however the style took me a while to get in to and in the end I did not finish the book. 

Thank you to netgalley for giving me an advanced reader copy.
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Enjoyable alternative reality tale, made my head spin a little but overall very interesting and well written. I would probably read more by this author.
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I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, HQ, and the author Alyson Rudd. 
Undoubtedly an interesting concept for a novel, and I was entertained, but unfortunately I was left mostly with a feeling of confusion and of ambiguity. 
The characters didn't feel fully formed, and the story's denouement felt a little underdeveloped. 
Undoubtedly clever, but falls a little short of the mark. 3 stars.
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This book was really interesting. It's really well thought out and keeps your interested throughout whilst intricately weaving together stories. The premise sounds as thought it could lose you but it really captures your attention. 

4 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and Alyson Rudd for my free copy in exchange for review.
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I was given a copy of The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by NetGalley for review purposes. This is the first work of fiction which Alyson Rudd has written, she is a journalist on The Times and has also published a couple of non-fiction books. One thing is very clear, Ms Rudd has a wonderful gift for beautiful prose and she has a powerful imagination.

The plot attracted me as it was such an unusual premise, briefly it deals with the lives of Lauren Pailing who dies first at the age of 13 and the effect this tragedy has on friends and family. We then follow Lauren and those close to her to a parallel life, the whole story is written with great sensitivity and I was totally enthralled from beginning to end. 

Quite honestly I have not read such a wonderful, original book for many, many years and I know that it is one which I will treasure and read again and again.
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We don't get to choose another path in real life but we have all thought about what would happen if...This is what this book is about.
A little girl sees variations of her life and those connected to her in sunbeams: those shafts of light that harbour twinkling dust particles. A great concept that we can all identify with. She has an accident where she dies, but has the choice to hop into a sunbeam where she survives and one where the accident never happened at all. Her life and those of her parents pan out on the various routes.

The story shows that her parents are always her parents although some of the neighbours' lives are not the same. There are other constants as well. Her father's employer goes missing and everyone suffers some kind of grief, loneliness and loss, the desire for children and family.

At the beginning, the 'alternative path' sunbeams is an enchanting experience but as the girl grows up she stops seeing them. Then we are left with fairly mundane lives concerning meeting people, getting married, committing adultery, yearning. It is a relief when she dies again. There are delicate touches of alternative history, such as Margaret Thatcher never becoming prime minister, Neil Kinnock being a popular prime minister instead, and electric kettles not being efficient in each world.

Eventually the lives become connected and fragmented and, unusually for supernatural stories like this, she goes to see a therapist to try to make sense of everything. The counsellor does a bit of sleuthing and discovers that things are  not entirely in her imagination.

The ideas behind this book are engaging but the focus becomes clear partway through. This is a study of bereavement and how people deal with it - 'I live in a world of loss'. Sometimes escaping into the 'alternative path' is enough. Sometimes not. An original book in many ways, thoughtful and sadly fatalistic, the ideas will stick around  after the book is closed. Recommended.   

#NetGalley #TheFirstTimeLaurenPailingDied
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I deliberately don't reiterate the blurb/storyline on the back page of the books I review, as that is already readily available alongside my reviews, instead I concentrate on my own thoughts and views on my reading experience.  So if you want the nitty gritty of the storyline, please check out the blurb.

You know how now and again you find a book that is so original, so inventive, it just blows you away?  Well for me, this was it.  I don't even know how to describe my reading experience now that I have sadly turned the last page, this book has touched me so profoundly.

Both the premise and execution of this complex story are unlike anything I have ever read before, and I doubt I will read the like again.  The way the different strands of Lauren's existence/s are sewn together is simply breathtaking.  I don't think I ever actually understood entirely what was going on, but then again, at no point did that even matter, I was too enthralled by the whole thing.  

I am not sure how the author managed to create such such well developed characters despite the differences between the realities/dimensions they inhabit, but somehow, she has.  Each one of them, even those on the periphery, have been beautifully and richly drawn.  The strands of the story are quite complex, and most definitely mysterious, but somehow, I didn't find it confusing, just wonderfully mystical and captivating.  Considering that Lauren' s death is the driving force behind the storyline this is not a morbid story, far from it, it is indeed a story of endings, but also of beginnings. 

I loved how not all my questions were answered at the end, this is a story that somehow swept me into the narrative and part of the enjoyment was that little tendrils have been left floating around in my consciousness.  In fact, had everything been tied up neatly it would have been disappointing, so I was totally satisfied with the how it ended - well, other than that it ended at all.

I am sure I will still be thinking of this affecting and poignant book days from now, if not weeks, I doubt I will never forget it, and I will undoubtedly read it again. 

It is a remarkable book that reminds me why I have loved losing myself in books ever since I first learned to read, and this is one of those extra special books.

I received an eArc from the publisher via Netgalley, but this review is entirely unbiased and the words are my own.
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A debut that confused but also intrigued me.
Lauren Pailing has always felt there’s something unusual about her. She sees sunbeams that nobody else can see and talks to her mother about things that haven’t happened. She talks about ‘other mothers’ and it felt like we might be going into creepy Coraline territory. I really was quite confused at the start, because when Lauren is 13 she’s on holiday with family friends and is killed. However, we then veer into what I suppose you’d call alternate universes where Lauren is alive or where the outcomes are different.
As I tried to piece together exactly what had happened in each I was muddled. As the voices of each character become clearer, and we develop the story of each it did get more easy to differentiate between them.
There is a common strand in each life - the disappearance of a family friend and the role his family plays in Lauren’s life.
I liked the fact that the answers to what was happening were not the focus. This was an exploration of loss and love, and how events shape us. It’s probably best to know little more than you’re given before reading this.
Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this in exchange for my thoughts. I can’t wait to see what Rudd comes up with next.
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Really original and thought provoking novel. I was really suspicious of this at first (sounds daft I know, but I tend to like stuff straightforward and without "tricks). However this book grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me in straightaway, Glad it did. I didn't put this book down one whole wet ausgust weekend. Loved it. Thanks so much!
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This is Lauren Pailing’s story or stories as she returns slightly different in a new life, as do her family.  I didn’t think I was going to like this book at all to start with, wasn’t keen on the simplistic style of writing, but then suddenly found myself engrossed and didn’t want to put it down!  The idea of having more than one life is also appealing.  I loved how there were similarities in all these lives and how the other people carried on into their own futures but in a sort of parallel universe.  It was a fantastic read and I wish there’d been more lives to go through before the book finished!
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Loved this book from first to last. It's original, well written and perfectly captures the idea of 'what if'. What if that hadn't happened? What if things had turned out differently? So many questions, so beautifully answered.  book to make you think, make you smile and make you cry. Highly recommended.
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Lauren is much loved in all of her lives and the people she leaves behind are affected in different ways each time she dies.

Lauren is also affected, her memories get jumbled, and confuse her and the people around her.

There is one constant in all of her lives, Peter Stanning, he disappears with no trace or explanation.

It's engaging to read this book and it's a really good concept. The story switches between different characters in the different timelines. This sounds complicated, but it is actually handled very well.

Enjoyable read.
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An interesting and entertaining book. It is a quick an easy read as you won't be able to put it down once you get caught up in the worlds of Lauren Pailing and mysterious disappearance of Peter Stanning. Although it deals with alternate timelines and dimensions, it isn't scifi or fantasy. It is more similar to The Time Traveller's wife, Sliding Doors or Somewhere in Time where the inevitable fall down the rabbit hole into another world is a plot device and not the story.

Recommended for: a great summer holiday read.
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I'm actually not sure what I made of this book. When I see different strands, sliding door style, I want definitive answers and for them to be pulled together somehow. Yet these strands were so very different. We meet Lauren Pailing, only child of a middle class family who live in a cul de sac with their lives intwertwining with their neighbours. Lauren sees visions through rods of sunlight - although she doesn't realise that is what she's doing. She learns to keep things to herself as it makes her mum sad to know she sees "other mummies". Her glamorous mum, Vera, doesn't question this too much. With much misgiving Lauren goes on holiday with her friend and her family, and has a fatal accident. Or does she? We see Lauren returning to a life that is almost the one she left behind, but her parents are that bit less sociable and glamorous. We also see Bob and Vera trying to go on in a world where Lauren died. the strands are told skillfully and while there is overlap it is seamless. Through every strand is the story of Peter Stanning, her dad's boss, who disappeared without trace. As a talented artist Lauren, as a child, drew comic strips about the situation. In one life she met the Stannings and what she reports in another life helps push the case forward. Would this have happened without Lauren having died the first time? Very complicated, but the Stanning story gives a common theme, and I was really hoping for a happy ending. #netgalley #laurenpailing
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I know it sounds crazy but I don’t know if I enjoyed this book or not.  I was going to give up several times but there was a pull to find out about Peter Standing and that was dealt with in the end in a poetic way in some respects.  I think the problem with this book for me is that I am not sure about books that flit from one era and characters all the time.  This may be because I read late at night and find it sometimes hard to retain all the information if the story jumps about.  On saying this I really enjoyed each character as they were portrayed in their individual chapters and got to grips with the story and how it unfolded.  I could not imagine how Lauren existed in her worlds but as the story unfolded the author did this in such a clever and interesting way that I got it in the end.  I have read some of the reviews on Amazon which is something I don’t usually do and the other readers are correct in reminding us of the movie Sliding Doors and this is a great way to depict the book.  Maybe a film in the future – that would be great.  On saying all the above I am pleased I carried on reading this story and it was told in such a lovely way that I would read it again and maybe get more from it another time
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The description of this book made me think of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and, after finishing, I can see why the description made it seem that way. But it is quite different. Not only in the author's writing style but in the execution. The story kept me hooked and the writing was easy to read. I could definitely have read and enjoyed this on a beach (unfortunately there is no beach in my future for quite some time).

Much of what kept me interested was the relationships and, I suppose, what is now known as the sliding doors effect. Albeit rather than underground doors sliding closed it is literally death that causes that splinter. What would happen in another life if something was just slightly different. Although not a comedy I did stop and laugh at the thought of Schrödinger's rabbit. And by stop and laugh I mean sit up and cry with laughter. It was just so random and lighthearted. 

Overall the book has made me think about those around me. Who would they be under different circumstances. Within the story there are various storylines that characters fit into - the same characters yet with different paths. At the core the characters are the same yet circumstance has changed them from who they would have been. 

A really interesting and engaging read. 

I received an egalley from the publisher through netgalley.
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Enjoyable reading. An unusual and interesting concept of a story written, but with different versions. I found I had to read large portions at a time or I found I was losing the thread.
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