She shoots Hitler in the opening pages, the delight of which helps you get through the next bit where you don't know at all what's going on. Because you don't. A baby is born, but the cord is wrapped around its neck and the doctor doesn't get there in time and she dies. But THEN she DOESN'T die because the doctor arrives in time. But she goes on to get the Spanish Flu in childhood, and then she dies. But then she doesn't. You see?
I sort of...wait, what?
It's basically The Post-Birthday World with more timelines and MUCH less fornicating. And as with TP-BW, echoes of the other lives keep appearing in poignant and meaningful ways. And the prose is lovely and the characterization is rich and the idea is EXCELLENT, like, what if you kept living your life over, restarting from new spawn points, so that THIS time you've successfully avoided rape and later suicide BUT you end up in Germany during WWII and that sucks.
But ok, with an idea that great, how do you finish it? Because she kills Hitler, but obviously she doesn't kill Hitler, because Atkinson isn't writing some parallel-universe shit here. So she kills Hitler but then she 1ups a few more times and other stuff happens and it just sort of ends.
Where 'joke' is 'the overall point which I somehow missed.'
I mean, the experience of reading the book was good, but when the ending falls flat for me I have trouble recommending it. Do with that what you will.
Eight and a half caterpillars for 9/10ths of the book, minus about two for a lackluster ending. Six and a half.