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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
4,913429930 (4.03)2 / 824
  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. 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
    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 (421)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All (428)
Showing 1-5 of 421 (next | show all)
It is very rare for me to abandon a book. Although I have been wiser after one of the "good" reviewer I follow in Goodreads said "Life is too short to read a bad book". It is not that this book was written poorly or the idea was not intriguing. It is just I really did not care for the character.

There are some spoilers below this point :

Our heroine Ursula keeps on dying and coming back for another chance: hence the title "Life after Life". It is not very clear where she comes back to. When she is a baby it is simple and it happens right before the death. As she gets older, things get more complicated and she comes back to a time where she can change the events that lead to her untimely death. It is all good and dandy at first, but after her god knows *th death, it gets boring. You don't get the idea: why she keeps on coming back? I was happy as she was saved as a small child, but when she is developed, stay dead already.

Sorry didn't mean to lose myself. I just wished she wrote a shorter book with more interesting stories. I really hate abandoning books :/

note: If the ending was mind blowing, I would appreciate if someone can give me a short summary below. ( )
  soontobefree | May 1, 2017 |
I really, really like the concept of this book: Ursula lives and dies many times. She has premonitions that allow her to choose a different path from the one that previously killed her.

Until a little over halfway through I'd say the book was okay but after that it was torture to read. I couldn't wait to finish it.

Some parts were confusing. I hated the bits of French and German sprinkled in. Some of it was boringly repetitive. ( )
  jenn88 | Apr 25, 2017 |
Follows a English mother and then her daughter from the turn of the century through two world wars, exploring alternative outcomes that they might have lived through. Incredibly powerful observation of upper middle class life that just rings very true. The reading by Fenella Woolgar is also startlingly good. Highly recommended. ( )
  Matt_B | Apr 4, 2017 |
Atkinson ambitious novel kills off her heroine time and again and lets her start over and find alternate courses that her life might have taken. It is extremely an interesting and original undertaking. Time thus switches back in forth – which is disorientating for the reader – be sure and pay attention to the date on each chapter because you have to figure out not only where she is in her life but which life she is living. Maybe that is why I found the first third of the book a bit of a slog - I just barely gave this book 4 stars, but then I am stingy - until I got into the rhythm of the writing and kept track of the chronological and plot shifts (that and perhaps the fact I was reading 2 other books at the same time). The pace to picks up as Ursula, the main character, evolves from a hapless little girl into capable, admirable woman. Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time and change a mistake into a decision with hindsight ( well maybe). The title has a double meaning at least to me: the first deals with reincarnation, the second is more like “time and time again.” ( )
  CindaMac | Mar 26, 2017 |
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 |
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.
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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