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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Todd Family (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,999434909 (4.02)2 / 829
  1. 227
    The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Yells, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These moving and thought-provoking novels portray characters whose lives are continually disrupted by time shifts -- in Life after Life, the protagonist repeatedly dies and comes back to life, while in The Time Traveler's Wife, the protagonist time-travels involuntarily.… (more)
  2. 90
    Replay by Ken Grimwood (fspyck, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Life after Life and Replay feature characters who live multiple lives against their wills; the complications of dying and coming back to life form the core of each novel and create moving, sometimes funny, always thought-provoking situations.… (more)
  3. 104
    Case Histories: A Novel by Kate Atkinson (JenMDB)
  4. 61
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both have unusual narrative structures and explore the theme of reincarnation.
  5. 40
    A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (Laura400)
  6. 31
    The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (amysisson)
    amysisson: Both books examine decisions and moments that change the course of a life.
  7. 10
    The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (rstaedter)
    rstaedter: A different concept, but nonetheless also brilliantly written and with the Blitz as backdrop.
  8. 43
    Blackout by Connie Willis (VenusofUrbino)
  9. 10
    A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth L. Ozeki (bibliothequaire)
  10. 21
    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (amysisson)
    amysisson: Both are about the unusual ways in which women may impact the tides of war
  11. 00
    The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt (kiwiflowa)
  12. 11
    Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (shaunie)
  13. 00
    Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Similar time in history. A story of 2 sisters during the Second World War.

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English (427)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All (434)
Showing 1-5 of 427 (next | show all)
Quick Take-Away:
On the cusp of four stars, but something didn’t click for me. The middle 350 pages or so really pulled me in, but I felt that the last 50 pages fell short.

Longer Review (with the mildest of spoilers):
The writing in this book is beautiful. I believe this is the first of Ms. Atkinson’s books I have read, but I gather she is someone known for her prose. The premise of the book, for those who are unfamiliar, is that Ursula is born in February of 1910 in England, and immediately dies. And then she is born again, but something slightly different keeps her alive. This replays over and over again, without any real sort of pattern that I could detect; we don’t always get to a certain age and start over, or always start at the same point, or even necessarily get clued into *exactly* what it is that she may have changed to prevent her death.

Ursula dies at least a couple dozen times if not more, and only a few of the storylines get in-depth treatment. One of the more fascinating stories is of her choosing to marry a German in the early 30s and what that leads to; a different route leads her into a bad marriage. There are also some moments that at the time seem important, but now that the book has ended I can’t figure out what purpose they served (was her mother having an affair in one of the storylines, and did it matter?).

I think the most frustrating component for me was that everything felt like it could be more developed – I wanted to see more connections, learn more about what Ursula was thinking and feeling that lead her to make a shift in her life that prevented her death. I just don’t think we got that, so even though I found myself sucked in, upon reflection I can’t quite recommend it to others.
( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
I LOVED this book. I won't even try to write a review, because I'm sure everything I could rave on about has already been said by other readers. If you like time-travel books, you'll probably like this one--even though it isn't a time-travel book. If you like London-during-the-Blitz-books, you'll probably like this one--even though it isn't primarily about that. If you like novels about women's lives in the first half of the 20th century, you'll probably like it. If you like alternative histories, or if you give much thought to the way coincidence and decision work together in a person's life, you'll probably like it very much. ( )
  VintageReader | Jul 9, 2017 |
Was so promising through 2/3 of the story but fizzled. Left me asking, why did I bother? ( )
  HunyBadger | Jul 6, 2017 |
The concept of this book is fascinating. It explores the different directions ones life could go depending upon their choices. This book was at times difficult to follow. There are so many characters who pop up in certain lifelines and don't show up in others. I felt like I should have been taking notes. I also felt like this book would never end. I like the concept, but not the actual book. Skip it. ( )
  Emma_Manolis | Jun 27, 2017 |
I honestly don't think I've read anything else like this. This book was amazing and did not disappoint! ( )
  mariacfox | Jun 19, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 427 (next | show all)
I absolutley loved Life After Life. It's so brilliant and existential, and I really responded to all of the 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' that she plays with.
added by Sylak | editStylist [Issue 338], Emily Blunt (Oct 12, 2016)
Atkinson’s juggling a lot at once — and nimbly succeeds in keeping the novel from becoming confusing.
For the other extraordinary thing is that, despite the horrors, this is a warm and humane book. This is partly because the felt sense of life is so powerful and immediate. Whatever the setting, it has been thoroughly imagined. Most of the characters are agreeable. They speak well and often wittily. When, like Ursula’s eldest brother, Maurice, they are not likeable, they are treated in the spirit of comedy. The humour is rich. Once you have adapted yourself to the novel’s daring structure and accepted its premise that life is full of unexplored possibilities, the individual passages offer a succession of delights. A family saga? Yes, but a wonderful and rewarding variation on a familiar form.
This is, without doubt, Atkinson’s best novel since her prizewinning debut, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and a serious step forwards to realising her ambition to write a contemporary version of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. A ferociously clever writer, she has recast her interest in mothers and daughters and the seemingly unimportant, quotidian details of life to produce a big, bold novel that is enthralling, entertaining and experimental. It is not perfect – the second half of the book, for example, could have done with one less dead end – but I would be astonished if it does not carry off at least one major prize.
Aficionados of Kate Atkinson's novels – this is the eighth – will tell you that she writes two sorts: the "literary" kind, exemplified by her Whitbread Prize-winning debut Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and the Jackson Brodie crime thrillers. In reality, the distinction is superfluous. Atkinson is a literary writer who likes experimenting with different forms, and her books appeal to a huge audience, full stop. However, for those still keen on these discriminations, Life After Life is one of the "literary" ones. As with the Brodies, Atkinson steers with a light touch, despite the grimness of the subject matter...The novels of Kate Atkinson habitually shuffle past and present, but Life After Life takes the shuffling to such extremes that the reader has to hold on to his hat. It's more than a storytelling device. Ursula and her therapist discuss theories of time. He tells her that it is circular, but she claims that it's a palimpsest. The writer has a further purpose. Elsewhere, Atkinson is quoted as saying: "I'm very interested in the moral path, doing the right thing." It's impossible not to be sympathetic toward Ursula, who yearns to save the people she loves and has been blessed – or cursed – with the ability to do it.

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate Atkinsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Woolgar, FenellaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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What if some day or night a demon were to steal you after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you:'This life as you now live and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more"...Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him:"You are a god and never have I heard anything so divine.'

Nietzsche, The Gay Science
Everything changes and nothing remains still.

Plato, Cratylus
For Elissa
First words
A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the café.
"It's as if," he said to Ursula, "you walk into a room and your life ends but you keep on living."
"All those names," Teddy said, gazing at the Cenotaph. "All those lives. And now again. I think there is something wrong with the human race. It undermines everything one would like to believe in, don't you think?"

"No point in thinking," she said briskly, "you just have to get on with life." (She really was turning into Miss Woolf.) "We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try." (The transformation was complete.)

"What if we had a chance to do it again and again," Teddy said, "until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale. What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to? Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
Haiku summary
birth, death, birth again/
mistakes erased, perfected/
can we change the world?
Born again, often
Kinda like a palimpsest
Does that explain life?
Ursula would die
To go on having birthdays
And she does, often

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"What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. 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 a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she? Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original -- this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best"--… (more)

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