Life After Life

Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life: A Novel 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 462 reviews.
lovelybookshelf More than 1 year ago
When I first read the synopsis of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, I immediately wondered how Ursula Todd would come back to life. Would it be like Captain Jack Harkness in the television series Torchwood, where moments after death she'd revive with a huge gasp for air? Would it be more like the movie Groundhog Day, with all the frustration that came with not being able to escape the loop? Would she be aware of what was happening? Would other people be aware of it happening to her? No matter how many possibilities I envisioned, I was still surprised by the way Kate Atkinson crafted this plot point. It is handled with ingenuity and originality; never cheesy, never trite. I'm purposely being vague here, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. But I think every time I feel déjà vu in the future, I'll be reminded of this novel... Much of the story took place in London during the bombings (the "Blitz") of WWII. These pages were terrifying and heart-wrenching. I would start to feel overwhelmed and think, "Is this ever going to stop?" I'd want to put the book down for a while, and then feel guilty. I'd been reading over the course of only two days, and could take a break whenever I wanted. London had 57 nights in a row of bombings. Atkinson gives readers an incredibly vivid portrayal of war, a poignant and multifaceted look at its enormity and how distressing - and wearying - it is for all involved. Life After Life is beautifully written and reads like a classic. Wonderfully complex, it's a story you could read over and over and always make new connections. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.     
Shudro More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of Kate Atkinson's latest book and was not disappointed! Kate wields Ursula's life and her various possibilities like a kaleidoscope; with one simple twist the results are so beautifully different and complex. From the publisher, "On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization." Facing the unknown, reincarnation and ownership for our actions or passivity is a fascinating backdrop to this wildly powerful tale that courses through different time periods in England and Europe's 20th century. It was so easy to be caught up in Ursula's many lives; I got the same rush of excitement and anticipation as I did when reading the "Choose Your Own Adventure” book series in the 80’s as a young girl! I highly recommend “Life After Life”, as it was thoroughly engaging and engrossing – which is the marking of a phenomenal book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a selection for our book club, and I have to say it isn't one I would have picked myself, nor would I read it again. The premise is very intriguing and the history and writing are well done. The explanation of the "deja vu" and how Ursula moves past a previous obstacle each time she starts over were very well done. However, about halfway through, the story just became mundane, and while a lot of it lended to the history of the time period Ursula lived in, I felt that the more important parts of the plot were lost in boring daily detail. It also became a little jumbled at the end, and i'm not quite sure i really understand what happened or why it happened in the end after all. If you just want ot give something different a try, a chance to read outside the box, give it a shot. But dont expect a riveting story.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
“There is a fine line between living and dying,” a character observes in Kate Atkinson’s new novel. And it does certainly seem to be the case here, in the midst of two world wars, during the Great Influenza, at the beginning of the twentieth century in Britain. Characters come close to death, and some do not escape it: alternate histories are woven together until we are not really sure what is true. And this is the message. “History is all about ‘what ifs’” a character says late in the novel. More to the point here, perhaps, is that fiction, and this fiction in particular, is all about ‘what ifs’. This is my first experience with what I would call a literary mash-up. Mash-up is a relatively new concept in literature that was borrowed from music where two or more songs are combined, usually by laying the vocal track of one song over the instrumental track of another. Wikipedia defines a literary mash up as taking a pre-existing work of fiction, often a classic, and combining perhaps thirty or forty percent of it with a vampire, werewolf, or horror genre. Atkinson has taken “classic history,” which is the Führer’s horror story, and overlaid many possible stories (love stories, family histories, employment possibilities) so that outcomes in some cases are different for individuals, but not, that we can see, in the larger history. Stories cascade upon one another, all centered around a single family, indeed, a single person, Ursula, who we meet in the first chapter and who succeeds, we think at first, in killing the Führer. “Don’t you wonder sometimes, “ Ursula said. “If just one small thing had been changed, in the past, I mean. If Hitler had died at birth, or if someone had kidnapped him as a baby and brought him up in—I don’t know, say a Quaker household—surely things would be different.” The juxtaposition of the chapters makes one remember those times when we stare into the unknowingness of the future and wonder what it will hold for us…and once there, looking back at the innocence of the early years, when we proceeded with our lives as though we had any control at all. Which brings me to a larger observation in this novel and in Atkinson’s fiction in general: oftentimes Atkinson’s characters are not agents of change, but reagents, possibly causing a chain reaction when they are introduced, possibly having no discernible impact at all. “Most people muddled through events and only in retrospect realized their significance. The Führer was different, he was consciously making history for the future.” Sometimes there are exceptional people, but even they cannot escape that possibility that “one thing” could change everything. Therein lie our power, and the power of the fiction writer. The title, Life After Life, points to those lives impacted by another’s life, or a close escape from death, or lives that continue after another has died, or simply the alternate histories we all might have if “one thing had been different.” When the book and the stories were drawing to a close, I admit I didn’t want to get to the end. I didn’t want another person to die unexpectedly. I didn’t want Ursula to grow older. I didn’t want to know which story was true. So, you see, I was caught, too.
An_Arkansas_Reader More than 1 year ago
I tend to be skeptical of books that have a big fuss made about them, finding them either too “artsy” or too “James Patterson-ish” -not literary at all. But Life After Life far exceeded my expectations. It was well-written with a great sense of atmosphere, a believable but likeable protagonist, and a great sense of time and place. The main character, Sophie, is born again and again throughout the novel on a chilly evening in February 1910. Each lifetime a circumstance changes sending Ursula and her family’s future on a different trajectory. What if we get to live again and again until we get our life right? Highly recommended for fans of historical and literary fiction!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this novel, please! I promise you that once you begin reading this book you too will find it difficult to put it down. And once you read it through to the last pages, I'm sure you too will want to turn back to its first pages to rethink the whole novel through again. To be sure, this is a masterpiece which deserves to be read again and again. Ursula is truly a remarkable character of depth whom we take interest in for her own sake as an individual and not for anything she might symbolize as a literary heroine. We are able to connect with her viscerally (and we do many times over). The other primary characters who populate her story are no less remarkable than she. Her family, her friends, her lovers, and even her Zen master-like psychiatrist are all highly believable individuals with whom we can easily identify. The cover blurb provides a fair plot summary of the novel and I am sure other reviewers will rehash it over and over again as well, so I will spare you a plot summary here. Rather I want to remark on what makes this novel so brilliant for me - and it is not only the deep underlying philosophical and religious themes which will surely open wide this book to many interpretations - but its beautiful characters who break all stereotypes and its structure which is a masterpiece of narrative architecture.      
katsy315 More than 1 year ago
Don't give up on this book.  It is very confusing for at least the first third.  But it is captivating and you just become fascinated by the lives in it.  I'm still not sure what it's all about but may reread it again soon to take it all in again.  I don't know how Kate Atkinson thought of an idea for this book.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the most entertaining and intriguing novels I have ever read. I will not try to describe it as it truly defies description. If I had to sum it up in a sentence I would say: A marvelous morality tale of what ifs and what could bes. Ursula, the main character, has a chronic case of deja vu. With it, she gets a do over when she needs it. This way, everyone gets a happy ending. A totally charming novel, I found it difficult to put down. …LEB…
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very excited about the premise of this story. Unfotunately, it did not get fulfilled. I think the story was confusung at times and the end was very rushed. There was some bouts of brilliance but a lot of times the plots fell flat. Not sorry i bought it but I don't get what all the praise was about. Also there was a lot of German so some puns msy have been lost on me since I don't speak that language. Hope this helps your decision making!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading the book. I would say this book is for people who like something thought provoking. The writing is excellent and the concept is novel (at least to me). Much of the novel is on the melancholy side but there are many sections of inspiring triumph.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I finished reading this book, I was sure I had missed some details, so I started over and read it again. The second reading clarified some things for me, but the ending left me more confused than I was the first time. However, I thought it was an excellent book and well worth my time. I'm sure I will spend a lot of time thinking about it, and I may even read it again in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Phew! Was I glad that book finally ended. It is one of the most tedious books I've ever read. Utterly exhausting. Barely got through it. Wish I would have stopped several pages in like some of these other readers. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting and well written. Quite a clever plot device is more than well supported by wonderful storytelling. Read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has to be the most boring book I have ever read. It sounded sort of interesting when I bought it, having been persuaded by all the good reviews. It has no particular suspense involved except that after the first few chapters you start waiting for Ursala to die. At page 88 I quit reading because I just didn't care anymore whether she lived or died. The author gave me no reason to identify with her or to care about her. She (nor any of the other characters) were ever real people to me. I am very sorry I bought this book.
timeshadowrider More than 1 year ago
Loved it! A whole new take on Einstein's quantum universes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Imagine plodding through a Christmas card from a distant relative or friend with a 2 page insert of all the mundane things that have been happening in the life of their family. Now imagine over 400 pages of this and the family is not even real – it’s fictional. That’s what this book reads like. The premise is great – the execution of it is another matter entirely. Each chapter is filled with mundane details of the routine activities of daily living of the protagonist and her family – kids playing in the yard, people eating, blah, blah, blah. You have to get to the last paragraph of each chapter before anything interesting happens, and that is the part where Ursula dies. It would have been nice if she could have spared us the agony and just stayed dead in the first paragraph of the book and end it there. As it is, you find yourself reading because of the interesting premise of the story, only to be continually frustrated as the Christmas card tabulation never seems to end. I have to confess, I value my time and was not going to get snookered into wasting anymore of it than I had to, so I gave up after 50 or so pages. But in my opinion, if the author can’t say something interesting by this point, then he has failed the reader, and with so many books to be read out there, the reader should move on to the next one. I could have saved some time and money by paying more attention to some of the negative reviews. They were spot on. Unless you’re a big fan of Christmas cards, save yourself the trouble and find another book. This one is a snoozer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was not at all what I expected, but thoroughly enjoyed it once I got into it. An interesting journey and very thought provoking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! It was so interesting to see the complex view of the London bombings through the eyes of the main character. Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes I thought I was reading the incorrect chapter. Interesting story but too contrived to enjoy the read.
SuseNJ More than 1 year ago
Very long book mostly about the main character's family life and dealing with WWII. Will be a big disappointment if you expect a lot of the plot to be about Ursula's multiple lives.
WendySiera More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was absolutely fabulous. And now that it's been about a week since I've read it, I find myself walking around with the constant sense that the past is everpresent with me; it's not over, it's just behind the thinnest veil. The connection and roads not taken are still here, impinging on every minute, and everything in life seems very tentative and interconnected--a miraculous and changeable weave. Kate Atkinson is a master storyteller. When I read her it's like watching Picasso draw a single line that turns immediately into a living creation. We know Kate Atkinson's Ursula Todd is entirely fictional, but in her provisionality, she is somehow more than that, much more alive and active in all her variation than all other characters we've read. A truly stunning achievement.
MollysMomFL More than 1 year ago
I've always believed in reincarnation so this book looked exciting at first glance...I'm at page 163 and it's like a durge trying to get thru to something interesting. Maybe I'm missing something here...I don't find it complex, just simple and will probably throw in a rape pretty soon and maybe Ursula won't even know what happened...go figure!
AbbyGGH More than 1 year ago
Brilliant! Have you ever, even just once, wondered how your life and those around you would be different had you taken a different path at a decision point, even if it seemed mundane and irrelevant at the time?  This book tells that story for one character (and the subsequent "touch points" to others in her life). The writing style is original and page-turning.  I highly recommend this book.
CrazyForNewBooks More than 1 year ago
I managed to get through the first 200 pages before I could no longer believe I was using my time well. The story is so wordy but goes nowhere. There are dialogue pieces in German, French, and Spanish, none of which are translated, which I found to be annoying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love to read but this was a hard read. I got confused thinking I'd missed pages and that wasnt the case. I'm not sure if I'm disappointed in the book or my reading skills, which by the way I have never had to question before. Ugh, I wish I liked it more.