Comments (154)Add a Comment
I'm at a loss to explain why I love this complicated, unusual and engaging novel. I'm a huge fan of multi-time narratives and when done well, they're astonishing but they can also fall flat when the author is sloppy. this isn't sloppy by any means. This is intricate, sophisticated, dizzying, multi-layered and beautifully written.
I love the idea of being able to go back and take a different action to change the course of events and who hasn't asked themselves "what if?" on so many occasions. I was completely invested in all the characters and willed a situation to be revisited to change the outcome.
I raced to the end but conversely didn't want it to end as I was enthralled with the repeating of a moment in time and what could happen next. I think this novel will stay with me for quite some time.
The book has an interesting premise in that Ursula Todd is born in 1910 and dies and is reborn over and over again with slightly different circumstances and opportunities. Though other reviews marvel over the uniqueness of the narrative, I found the book to be a tedious read—particularly in the World War II sections that just wouldn’t end. The book would have benefitted from better editing.
It took me a while to get into this novel but once I did I was taken by it. An innovative form is carried by Atkinson's Yorkshire sense of humour, and her adroit characterization of the central characters. Looking forward to the second novel in this series.
I am irresistibly reminded of the 2 volume novel "Blackout" and "All Clear" by Connie Willis. Both Willis' works and this novel evoke a sense of place wonderfully, England in the Second World War. The overlap of lives, dancing between possible futures, works very well. I liked the attention to detail ... the ARP routines, the survival suit ... and the references to the poets (e.g. Marvell, Donne) and the occasional nods to other languages. It makes you think. Do try the Willis books as well.
Unforgettable book. I listened to this one, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not for those who dislike different POV.
I read "a God in Ruins" before "Life after Life", and although they are stand-alone books, they do involve the same family. I doubt I would have read "a God in Ruins" if I'd already read "Life after Life", as I wouldn't have believed the narrative in "a God in Ruins" after reading "Life after Life". Although both books do provide some fascinating (and horrifying) accounts of the reality of the Great war (WWI) and WWII, and the Todd family et al are interesting characters, I felt that the author went overboard with the constant reinvention of Ursula's life. While a very interesting premise for a novel, I felt it could have been shorter in length, as I lost interest about 3/4 of the way through, but plodded on until the end.
This is a must-read. It throws you all over the place in a good way. Got through it in two days.
From this fascinating book, I come away with the thought that our lives hang by threads and could easily have been different. Of course in real life time is linear and unalterable, but in our minds we imagine differently.
John Whittier wrote, "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'."
The book is confusing, jumping around in time and place. These websites are helpful: https://www.shmoop.com/life-after-life/ and https://www.litcharts.com/lit/life-after-life
Each has a plot summary and list of characters. Also, I like the author's comments. http://www.kateatkinson.co.uk/book_detail.php?b=Life_After_Life
One reader complained about the quotes from foreign languages. Yes, the author was snobbish to omit translations. These can be found on the Internet, either searching the quote or using Google translate (not reliable). For instance, in the chapter "Like a Fox in a Hole", the author describes a demonstration by desperate veterans and quotes Dante describing people going to hell:
"Si lunga tratta di gente, ch’i’ non averei creduto che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta."
I translate this: "Such a long procession of people; I never would have believed that death had undone so many." The implication is life can be like hell.
If you liked this book, read the sequel, A Life in Ruins.
Life After Life – Does the course of your life depend on fate or do you have control based on the choices you make? Ursula Todd is born on a snowy winter day in 1910 .. and then dies before she can take a breath. Or does she? The very same day, she is born, the doctor arrives in time, and Ursula lives. We follow Ursula’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as Kate Atkinson weaves in key historical events from the early to mid 20th century – World War I, the Spanish influenza epidemic, and then World War II, both in London during the Blitz and Germany in the ‘30s and ‘40s. We witness Ursula’s birth and death over and over again — in each timeline she makes different decisions that lead to wildly different life paths. Or is it fate acting upon her? A highly enjoyable read for fans of British historical fiction and alternative histories. The audiobook, read by Fenella Woolgar, brings the characters to life. (Submitted by Beth)
The only things that interests me in this book is the heroine’s ability to go back in time every time she dies, which means she gets to live forever with different stories and endings. This novel reverts European people’s life around two world wars with vivid description. However, this book is really long, which made it difficult for me to finish. Further more, there are a lot of foreign words like French and German that are hard to understand. All in all, it’s a book with interesting setting yet I find it hard to keep reading. 3/5 Stars. @Vayne of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board
I have intended to read a Kate Atkinson novel for a long time after hearing so many people sing her praises. I finally picked up the audiobook Life After Life. After listening to a few discs, I was hooked. The theme is reincarnation and the writing is absolutely stunning. I have never read a novel like this one. Ursula Todd is born in 1910 on a snowy night and dies at delivery. Then she is reborn again and again. Each of her lives is different, although she always has the same family. A fascinating and original novel. — Kim B., Ridgedale Library
Kate Atkinson Life after Life an audiobook read by Fenella Woolgar
This book explores Ursula’s life choices and fate, reincarnation, and revision. Love it or hate it this book tends to evoke strong reactions which to my mind is the hallmark of a good author. Fenella Woolgar does a great job of narrating the book.
Ursula is born on a snowy night in 1910, during the course of the book she dies at various times always being reborn on the same snow night. The book is a little confusing at first, Ms Atkinson skillfully draws you along Ursula’s path.
Surprising, subtle book, when it begins. Makes one think of all the roads not taken, the coincidences or seemingly trivial events in life that have far-reaching consequences. But then it bogs down. The oppressively grim telling of WW II, over and over would make excellent reading in history classes about the real horror of wars. But the whole Hitler sub-plot felt forced and silly. Narrator of the audio book is wonderful.
This is a great audiobook, absolutely lovely narrator. The premise is very cool too, but after a point it can get to be a little much with the repetition. So it drags in parts while listening, and for some people, myself included, reading it in print might work better.
Interesting premise; addictively atmospheric, but the storytelling is at times annoyingly protracted and over-the-top. The ending is abrupt and weird.
Ursula’s constant quoting of various poets, and her corrections (even in her own mind) of other characters’ misquotes, is heavy-handed and detracts.
The audiobook delivery is solid.
A clever book! It was a very interesting read. Some of the elements are repetitive with variation, and each scenario of the main character's life is very surprising. The climax brought everything together and ultimately gave way for a new version of her life that was very interesting. I will definitely read the author's other books, especially the companion to this book!
I was surprised by how immediately this book swept me up. The last several audiobooks I've tried either bored or frustrated me, and I was expecting this one to be the same. Despite revisiting elements of the same story, Atkinson kept uncovering new layers of the story, recreating the characters with unexpected variations.