‘The First Time Lauren Pailing Died’ by Alyson Rudd – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

An emotional, uplifting and magical novel as seen in GUARDIAN’s ‘hottest debuts of 2019’

Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties, and a child of the seventies.

She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.

Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.

But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.

And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to finally being found…

My Review

This was such an interesting read! I was thoroughly engaged by the storyline and really feel as if I’ve read something quite fun and stimulating. 

The premise of the book follows the character of Lauren Pailing. The story starts off with her as a child and introduces us to her parents, Bob and Vera and various family friends and neighbours. 

Occasionally throughout her childhood Lauren sees what can best be described as sunbeams or shafts of light through which she can see different versions of life. She soon learns that talking about these strange occurrences unsettles her parents and friends and she vows to keep these *visions* to herself. 

Then at age 13 a tragic accident occurs and Lauren dies. 

And from this point the book splinters into alternate realities. If you’ve ever seen the film Sliding Doors it’s kinda like that. 

In one reality Lauren has died and her parents struggle with their grief and find it difficult to accept their loss. 

But in another reality Lauren is alive and just injured and her life carries on. 

And from there the book follows various alternate realities of life that splinter off at different points in time for this cast of characters. In some versions Lauren is dead and her parents have a new child or her father has remarried, and in others Lauren is alive but living life slightly differently each time e.g. working in different jobs, living in a different area, married to a different man etc etc. 

The one connecting storyline throughout each timeline follows the disappearance of a man named Peter Stanning. And this mystery helps to ground each version of Lauren and her family.

I know this setup sounds a bit bonkers and perhaps difficult to follow, but I guarantee you it’s not. The book is really smart with how it chooses to follow a single PoV of a different member of Lauren’s family (or Lauren herself) for each timeline. And it’s fascinating to see the nuance and variation of the one character that can occur between alternate timelines. 

A truly interesting read with a great overarching narrative, fun plot developments, intriguing characters and all mixed up with a dusting of paranormal sci fi. 

I had no clue how this book would end and while one version of reality from Lauren’s PoV ended a little neatly and felt somewhat rushed for me, all the others ended pretty much perfectly. And I very much enjoyed the conclusion to Peter Stanning’s storyline and how it gave the book a very satisfying end point. 

Recommended. 

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7 thoughts on “‘The First Time Lauren Pailing Died’ by Alyson Rudd – Book Review

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