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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
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Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Todd Family (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,800429966 (4.02)2 / 813
  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. 51
    Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both have unusual narrative structures and explore the theme of reincarnation.
  5. 31
    The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (amysisson)
    amysisson: Both books examine decisions and moments that change the course of a life.
  6. 20
    A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (Laura400)
  7. 10
    A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth L. Ozeki (bibliothequaire)
  8. 43
    Blackout by Connie Willis (VenusofUrbino)
  9. 21
    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (amysisson)
    amysisson: Both are about the unusual ways in which women may impact the tides of war
  10. 00
    The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (rstaedter)
    rstaedter: A different concept, but nonetheless also brilliantly written and with the Blitz as backdrop.
  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 (421)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All (428)
Showing 1-5 of 421 (next | show all)
A long and absorbing chronicle of family and national upheavals, from the era spanning the two World Wars. Atkinson's narration cycles round, revisiting and reshaping the life and experiences of Ursula Todd, her family and connections. The scenes reform and repeat, but her temperament and feelings remain constant, as with our real lives. Feelings, mainly, are what we are. People, places, characters and fashions of the times are all well depicted, as too the emancipations and carnage that the first half of the 20th century conveyed. ( )
  eglinton | Feb 24, 2017 |
What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? Set in England, starting in 1910, Ursula will be born and die several times until she is strong enough to do what needs to be done. But will she? A book like no other. (If you are confused at first, just go with it….it is so rewarding!) The ladies in the book group still talk about it !
  mcmlsbookbutler | Feb 23, 2017 |
A fundamentally flawed book in that there is no plot, no actual resolved story told. What do I mean by this? Nothing Ursula does actually in the end makes any difference at all. She learns much and resolves nothing. The opening scene smacks of a publishing editor saying "Kate darling you need a hook on the beginning of this book to get the reader interested." So we get duped by this exciting Hitler assassination scene that is out of place in time and makes no contribution to plot progression that I could see - and then gets repeated much later in the book with slight variation.
Somewhere around the 75% point; where by well known story telling practices we should have a second plot point providing a revelation to our protagonist about what is going on the help her resolve the plot; we get "and then a transformation happened" (that might not be the exact words) followed by the book carrying on just as it did before. OK it is art, it doesn't always have to conform to the same rules as other stories all the time. But sorry, that's no excuse for not finishing the story is some fashion.
Yes, she gets to save her brothers life which she failed to do previously and we saw how terribly life went for everyone in previous incarnations when the brother did die. Victory? Yes? No, of course not because Ursula dies and it starts again so her brothers rescue is meaningless.
There is a good lesson here in that life will never be perfect. That's a good piece of story telling if only Ursula got to experience the best life she could have done given the difficulties she had to live with and then conquer that antagonistic force - the time loop. Then our heroine would have won some kind of victory.
The writing is brilliant, as is the portrayal of various periods in history including London in the blitz. As a reader I was continually waiting to see where this story would head, only to find with great frustration that it never went anywhere. Ultimately it comes across to me that Kate was being self indulgent and looking for some kind of excuse to play at recreating these periods of history and then attempting to graft some kind of plot on top afterwards to justify calling it a story.
In the end Groundhog Day is a vastly better story which is smarter than it may look at first acquaintance - in my opinion. A strong plot that progresses well and has a destination. Perhaps some would take it less seriously because of the comedy element it has.

3 stars for Life After Life because most of the way through I did like it but the whole thing collapsed in a heap towards the end when it started to become clear it wasn't really going anywhere.
A review in one word would simply be "Frustrating". ( )
  AdrianGHilder | Feb 22, 2017 |
I am completely astonished as to the scope and depth of this novel. I am also exhausted....took me weeks to finish in audio format.
I have left it feeling angry, in love, frustrated, a bit confused, and wowed! ( )
  annabw | Feb 21, 2017 |
The central question in this novel is how do the seemingly inconsequential choices we make change the course of our lives, and even history? Immediately after finishing this book I wanted to start over and read it again so I've bumped my rating up to 5 stars.

Imaginative and beautifully written, Ursula is born and dies, and born again to live a different version of her life - over and over again. Sometimes she dies as an infant, sometimes as a child, other times, an adult. She has no memory of her previous lives, although she has a sixth sense, a déjà vu, that often leads her to make a different choice, or to act in a way that changes the course of her life, and the lives of those around her. Unfortunately, sometimes those choices sets off a sequence of events where one disaster is averted, only to lead to another unfortunate consequence. Sound confusing? It's not as confusing as it sounds once you get into the rhythm of the narrative.

Some of the strongest chapters revolves around WWII during the London Blitz, where Ursula works in a civilian rescue unit. We feel the terror of the bombing raids and the horror of excavating bombed out buildings and finding the injured and dead.

Atkinson writes beautiful prose with humor, emotion, and great characterizations. The humor was a welcome counterpoint to some of the darker aspects of Ursula's life (lives). The more I read the more I cared for Ursula and her sometimes quirky family.

Highly recommended. Be sure to take note of the chapter titles and the year as you read. I'd recommend the book over an e-reader or audio for that reason. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 421 (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.
 
The same can be said admiringly of Kate Atkinson, whose latest novel, “Life After Life,” is her very best. Ms. Atkinson’s wide-ranging body of work includes several novels that resemble mysteries, but she has never had the narrowly deductive mind to suit that genre. “Life After Life” is a big book that defies logic, chronology and even history in ways that underscore its author’s fully untethered imagination.
 
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.
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate Atkinsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Woolgar, FenellaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Elissa
First words
A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the café.
Quotations
"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?"
Last words
(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?
(kswiggum)
Born again, often
Kinda like a palimpsest
Does that explain life?
(pickupsticks)
Ursula would die
To go on having birthdays
And she does, often
(pickupsticks)

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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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