Editorial Reviews. ukraine-europe.info Review. An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April Every Novel - Kindle edition by Kate Atkinson. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Recipients can read on any device. Additional gift options are available when buying one eBook at a time. Editorial Reviews. ukraine-europe.info Review. An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April Every Life After Life - Kindle edition by Kate Atkinson. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like. Read "Life After Life A Novel" by Kate Atkinson available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first purchase. What if you could live again and .
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Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson. Read online, or download in secure EPUB format. Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life's bleakest. Audio Download Life After Life. eBook . 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.
Do you want to remove all your recent searches? Playing next. During a snowstorm in England in , a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in , 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?
I love this book and this quote that I hate to admit hits a little too close to home. Apr 02, Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing Shelves: Kill off your heroine, early and often, while offering a look at the history of England from to the s. Gotta go. Now, where were we, a review? Yes, I seem to recall something about that. More of a feeling really. So, England, 20th century, perils of Pauline, well in this case Ursula, little bear, of Fox Corner, the manse of a well-to-do sort, not Downton rich, but, you know, comfortable.
She has a prat of an older brother and a decent elder sis, with a couple of brothers arriving later. Kate Atkinson - from The Telegraph Life is full of decision points. Walk this way, survive, walk that way and splat. It begins early with Ursula, who is offed before her first breath the first time around. She gets a better deal on the next go, managing to remain with us into childhood, and so on. The structure seems to employ the backstitch a fair bit, starting Ursula up a few chronological paces before the deadly decision point.
She seems to be born again more than an entire congregation of fundamentalist Christians, or, maybe more likely a band of Buddhists, as she seems to pick up a bit of wisdom, a bit of strength with each reincarnation. I counted 15 passings-on, but sure, I could have missed one or two. The lady must have G. Reaper on her autodial.
What if I had done this instead of that?
Buy for others
How might that have changed the outcomes? One can imagine the fun, and challenge an author experiences. Taking her main character, and plenty of secondary characters as well, in one direction then another, then another. It must mimic, to a degree, the authorial process. What if I do this to Ursula? What might happen? What if I point her in a different direction? And as for stuff happening, while it is usually pretty calm here, writing while on a bench in Prospect Park, I must admit I have never seen tentacles that size emerging from anywhere let alone the very modest Park Lake.
The slurping sounds are getting rather loud. That sumbitch is faster than he looks…Gotta go. Of course the desktop has been a bit dodgy of late, but no big whup. I will dip into the special Kona stash, brew up a nice cuppa and set to, shoes off, no shirt. Maybe a nice bagel with butter and strawberry preserves.
Review, yes, Atkinson, Ursula, do-overs. Oh yeah, it does call to mind a bit of Groundhog Day , although Phil the Weatherman knew early on that he was coming back each time. Not Ursula, although as time goes on she does develop a bit of a sixth sense about some things.
And the other major difference here is that Life After Life takes on some heftier purpose than Phil getting the girl and becoming a better person. Ursula is faced with some immediate challenges, like evading a rapist, a girl-killer, those annoying Nazi bombs during the blitz, not falling out windows, you know, stuff. But she also must contend with moral choices, and larger scale. Not only figuring out what the right thing is to do and then deciding, for her life, but thinking about how events affect other people, the nation, maybe the world.
What sort of life does she want to lead? How can she help the most people? What sort of person does she want to be? Can she make an impact beyond her immediate concerns? And within that context, others face similar choices. Ursula is not the only one with multiple exit scenes. There are plenty in the chorus of secondary characters who come and go, or should that be go and come back in varying iterations. What if so-and-so did A this time and B the next? How might that change things?
This is part of the fun of the book. Excuse me a moment, Nala, sweetie, off the desk please. I will be happy to scratch you. No, do not rub up against my coffee cup.
Too late, brown milky liquid splatters from the cup on the desk, rushing over the top of the desktop tower, which is sitting on the floor between desk and couch. I get up to fetch some paper towels. Maybe I should have worn slippers. I step away from the desk chair, contact enough wet to matter, and only feel it for moment when my body hair begins to ignite and my heart goes into highly charged spasms.
I hear the beginning of a scream and then…. Seems a lovely morning for some reviewing. Rainy out? Well, not yet, but you can feel it coming. So, open a few windows. Sit at the desk. Maybe not. Might be a bit too much breeze there.
Maybe the couch for a change. Yeah, book, they killed Kenny. You bastards! And I was, on, oh, page of the manuscript and still in the s. A Visit from the Goon Squad is one of the more dramatic of that sort. The rise of the novel comprised of linked stories has seen a boom in popularity. And so it is with Life After Life.
While the notion of reincarnation is hardly new in fiction, how it is handled here is far beyond what we have seen before, a real risk-taking. And so effective. Ursula is a very engaging character. Each time she comes back, you want her to stick around. And even when she makes bad choices you will be rooting for her to fix those in the next round.
Her sister Pamela seems as decent a sort as their brother Maurice seems insufferable, maybe a bit too insufferable. I found it to be entirely engaging, and was always sad when Ursula went dark yet again.
The book opens with her taking aim at the worst baddie of the 20th century and you will keep hoping she finds her way back to that place and completes the mission. Will she? One of the most riveting and memorable elements in Life After Life is the description of London during the Blitz, on the ground, you-are-there, offering considerable nightmare material, and making it clear just how hardy the survivors must have been, and how fragile the hold on life, whichever iteration a person is in.
The best part of the book, for me. There are many uses of animal references here. Ursula means little bear, The family name, Todd, means Fox. A group of Nazi wives is referred to as a wolf pack.
Actual foxes move in and out of the story, residents of Fox Corner, the Todd family home. A German is named Fuchs which also means fox. There are more.
A warden during the Blitz is named Woolf. At one point, Atkinson offers a wink and a nod to readers as her characters discuss time travel questions. There is much consideration here of the role and rights of women in the first half of the 20th century, and the changes in mores that marked the era.
The difference between love and gratitude when considering marriage is considered. The effect of World War I on the nation is noted as well, the loss of a generation of men in the war, and the loss of vast numbers from both genders from the Spanish flu.
While florid passages do not characterize the novel, there are some wonderful descriptions. Against the backdrop of black night the fires that had been started burned in a huge variety of colors—scarlet and gold and orange, indigo and a sickly lemon. Occasionally vivid greens and blues would shoot up where something chemical had caught fire.
Savage and strangely magnificent. Yes it is. Now that the task is done, I think I will bring in a glass of juice and have some of these lovely hard sourdough pretzels. Maybe catch something from the DVR. Always loved these pretzels, except, of course, when bits get stuck going down. Sometimes large bits, uh oh, a very large bit…trying to self-Heimlich, but no go, hitting my head on the edge of the coffee table as I stumble and fall while trying to stand up.
Maybe if I can get some liquid in there it will soften it, but the noggin-knock and the inability to get any air makes decision-making a tough go. The link to the second part is at the bottom of this one. View all 35 comments. I didn't know it then, but some of my schoolwork from my younger days were palimpsests, manuscripts on which the original writing has been erased to make room for later writing, but where traces of the original writing remain.
Ursula Todd compares her life lives to a palimpsest: It's kind of like Groundhog Day , except that she starts over at birth each time, and each life ends with her death.
She has frequent deja vu exp 2.
She has frequent deja vu experiences and some vague memories and forebodings about events from her prior lives, but like the palimpsest, they've mostly been erased and only hazy traces remain. Ursula also has a lot of very rough lives. I suspect that having her die early and often made the story easier to write.
Part of it is that she lived through both world wars in Great Britain, so the post-WWI Spanish flu epidemic and the London Blitz account for a fair number of her deaths, but really she does seem to have an undue amount of extremely bad luck. For a while I amused myself by keeping track of the number of deaths, but eventually I lost count. At any rate, she dies Because of her vague recollections, she's able to avoid some of the worse events from some of her lives in future lives, but sometimes her lives go into frustrating loops.
It takes her about 5 tries to figure out how to avoid dying at age 8 from that influenza epidemic. Part of my frustration with Life After Life was its repetitive nature. Ursula's birth scene death 1 gets repeated more times than I can count, until I was ready to throw the book against the wall every time I saw the words "11 February " appear in the chapter header.
Another problem is that I never really took to any of the characters in the book. Ursula herself is a bit of a sad sack, although she does show a lot of grit and has an admirable determination to avoid the sinkholes from her prior lives.
She has an affair with at least one married man in one of her lives or maybe the same guy in several lives--I was kind of losing track at this point and marries some truly awful guys in other lives. Some of the people in her family are wonderful, but her mother is kind of distant and bitchy and her older brother is a first-class jerk. The storyline is kind of the same deal: The London Blitz seemed to last forever.
I'm sure that was realistic, and it was well-written, but it was depressing and rather tedious reading material. Like, say, this, when Ursula is a warden helping to rescue people from bombed buildings: As she crept gingerly forward, Ursula's knee pressed on something soft and supple and she recoiled, banging her head on a broken rafter, sending a shower of dust down.
She had once stood on a body, recognized the squashy, meat-like quality of it. She supposed she had to look, although God knows she didn't want to. She peeled back a layer of wool and then another one as if unwrapping a badly packed parcel or a large, unwieldy cabbage. Eventually a small almost unblemished hand, a small star, revealed itself from the compacted mass. She thought she might have found Emil. Better then that his mother was dead rather than knowing about this, she thought. Emslie," she said over her shoulder, "there's a baby, try to avoid it.
I thought I had it all figured out but the last few pages threw me for a loop. Spoilerish discussion time: She's killed immediately after shooting Hitler, but then, understandably, there's a new life, what appears to be one of the better ones she's had, since her brother Teddy and the love of his life both survived. And on the very last page, there's her birth date again, but instead of reading about Ursula being born again we only read about the midwife who wasn't able to make it to her birth.
Some readers think that means that Ursula was done being reborn and that the good life is also her last life, which sounds really nice. But I just don't see a logical reason for it being the last of her lives, other than perhaps this conversation between Ursula and her brother Teddy: If so, I didn't see any other evidence for that in the story.
In fact, a happy ending seems incongruous with the rest of this rather grim book. Overall, I thought Life After Life was well-written and well-researched, but too repetitive and bleak for my taste. A lot of people love this book, though, so give it a shot if it sounds appealing. Failed buddy read with Nenia and Figgy: One me who finished after a 2-month hiatus, one DNF, and one still on hiatus she says she's going to finish it sometime Content advisory: View all 57 comments.
All the ads and enthusiastic reviews. I struggled to find a word which would describe my reaction to Life After Life - Kate Atkinson's latest novel, released to considerable hype - and I came up with this.
It's no perfect but then my reaction is not perfectly uniform as well; one can't accuse ms. Atkinson of being a hack and phoning her book in, not having an interesting enough idea or even of being a poor writer. She writes well, her concept is interesting and her writing flows easily and doesn't obstruct the storyline Bollocks!
She writes well, her concept is interesting and her writing flows easily and doesn't obstruct the storyline which is not always a bad thing. So why am I unimpressed? Life After Life begins with an unusual situation.
Ursula Todd, the protagonist, dies at the day of her birth in - an infant strangled with the umbilical cord during the delivery. In the very next scene Ursula's birth is shown to be happening again, but this time a doctor arrives to save the baby from asphyxiation. Ursula is born and lives, but soon dies again in different circumstances, only to be born and live once more, in yet another alternative version of the same event.
And so it goes - rinse and repeat, life after life. The theme of reincarnation in fiction is neither new or unpopular - witness the success of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas , which was adapted into a blockbuster film last year.
While I thought that Cloud Atlas was a bit gimmicky and didn't really breach any new grounds, it definitely had its advantages - such as David Mitchell's literary ventriloquism displayed by creation of several stories entirely different in tone and genre, but united by a common theme.
Life After Life focuses on exploring different outcomes of certain situations - but this makes it feel repetitive and dull after a while: We realize that there isn't really a definite version of Ursula's story; it became increasingly difficult for me to care about any of them as I found myself being less and less interested.
Life After Life contains several gripping and emotional scenes set during the London Blitz, two that stick in memory are of Ursula being trapped under the rubble and suffering from bitter cold and lack of resources. But even they lose their impact in the repetitiveness of the novel. As I read on, I found myself thinking that the reading experience resembles trying to jumpstart an old car which died in the middle of the road; we push and try to start the engine which spurts on for a moment, and we can ride in it for a few minutes, until it dies once more, forcing us to get out and start pushing once again.
Even if the old car will carry us all the way to the destination, we find ourselves wishing we'd rather walked or took the bus instead. And os it was for me with Life After Life - after a while I had to push myself to read on, and even though it started up for a while it soon died again, forcing me to redouble my efforts. In the end, I felt that even thought I made it all the way to the end my undertaking was not appropriately rewarded. I'll certainly read more of Kate Atkinson's work, since she's a readable and entertaining writer - it's just this book that didn't do it for me.
Books by Kate Atkinson
Any recommendations? Behind the Scenes at the Museum looks interesting, as do Case Histories. View all 61 comments. We can never get it right, but we must try. It's wrapped in a high-concept conceit of our protagonist Ursula's continual birth and rebirth into her not quite the same life, but said conceit is executed softly, subtly, played for laughs, used to display the horrors of war and the simple beauties of life.
As such, it somewhat defies conventional subject categorization other than really well-done fiction. This book just clicked for me: While not a perfect novel, I was completely swept away by Life After Life and this is something I'll re-read in the future.
Overall, I found so much humanity in this read, and it was so well-written, I couldn't help but be moved and informed and entertained by it. This is a novel that also rifled through my fears of my and everyone's mortality, yet also left a pervading sense of optimism, or at least perseverance in the face of the inevitable. I'd rate it 4. And goodness, one can only hope I'll have the same feelings when it's my turn to quit the world and unlike Ursula, not return.
View all 31 comments. Oct 13, Michael Jensen rated it did not like it. View all 15 comments. Jun 03, Elizabeth rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is one of those books that causes a book hangover. I can't easily go onto the next book and I have three other holds in from the library at the same time so this presents a problem because I can't stop thinking about Life After Life. In fact, I couldn't sleep last night for thinking of the book and finally needed to read under the covers for over an hour in the middle of the night before I could sleep.
I imagine I'm not alone in letting my mind wander on flights of fancy in the land of "w This is one of those books that causes a book hangover. I imagine I'm not alone in letting my mind wander on flights of fancy in the land of "what-if". What if I'd gone to a different college? Accepted this job offer instead of that one? Broke up with that boyfriend sooner? In many ways, this novel is Kate Atkinson's exploration of that idea, beginning in the first moments of Ursula Beresford Todd's life.
What if the doctor can't arrive at the birth due to a snowstorm? What if he gets there just in time?
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What if he doesn't get there, and Ursula's mother takes matter into her own hands? What if she doesn't? Key moments in Ursula's life play themselves out over and over. For her, time is a palimpsest, her life a page that has appeared, been scraped clean, and then written again, but each writing is a little different, an added comma, a missing exclamation point.
As we read scenes over again, we gain perspective, depth, not into the possibilities of plot but the possibilities of character as well. We gain deeper insight into the secondary characters and Atkinson also makes something of a nature versus nurture argument. In one version of her life, 16 year old Ursula allows a big, loutish boy to kiss her against her will. This sets her up for a lifetime to be used and abused by domineering men. But in the version where she hits the lout and gets away, she lives her life on her own terms, able to define her relationships with men, rather than being defined by them.
The time and setting of this novel, through WWII, England and Germany, are supposed to play a pivotal role and although they do in the end, I was far more interested in the fleeting small changes from version to version of Ursula's life. This is not a novel to read quickly, but one where there are nuances to be explored, and lyrical prose to be savored. View all 5 comments. Dec 27, Joe Valdez rated it it was ok Shelves: Dear Kate Atkinson.
You're a perceptively gifted writer and your novel Life After Life captivated me early. I saw exactly what you were doing, liked it and loved the way you set the table. I was turning the pages up to a point and the table dressing is beautiful. I can't recommend your nov Dear Kate Atkinson.
I can't recommend your novel because it didn't come with a meal. Not only is there no story here, I don't know if there's any "there" there. But in an alternate timeline, the doctor arrives just in the nick of time, and the baby survives. She's named Ursula. The characters in her family and her home are by far the most appealing part of the book. Sylvie's society portraitist father died suddenly, cognac and a loose rug at the top of the stairs. His finances reveal massive gambling debts, but the beautiful Sylvie is rescued from "genteel and well-mannered poverty" at seventeen by Hugh Todd, a rising star in the banking world.
Settling into an estate near Beaconsfield which Sylvie dubs "Fox Corner" due to its local wildlife, Sylvie names their children too: Sylvie's classical education and propriety masks a coldness in her nature.
Hugh is the family's rock, frequently bailing his flighty sister Izzie from one foolish affair or another. Christmas was a dull affair. Izzie came and talked a great deal about nothing or rather herself before announcing that she had joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and was leaving for France as soon as the festivities were over.
Glover's verdict. He had been adopted in Germany and Sylvie supposed he was a German citizen. How strange that he was only a little younger than Ursula but, officially, he was the enemy. Then at New year, one by one, all the children came down with chicken pox.
Izzie was on the next train to London as soon as the first spot erupted on Pamela's face. So much for Florence Nightingale, Sylvie said irritably to Bridget. While Ursula survives the chicken pox, she succumbs to a powerful tide while on holiday in Cornwall and drowns. But in an alternate timeline, she's pulled from the surf by a recreational painter who happened to be nearby.
The Todd family soon welcome a fourth child, a stout son Teddy. Also part of the household are their cook Mrs. Glover and a young housekeeper named Bridget. When Maurice flings his sister's doll Queen Solange out the attic window, Ursula crawls out into the night to retrieve it and falls to her death. But in an alternate timeline, something prompts Ursula to reconsider such a stunt.
She ties a walking cane onto a lacrosse net to retrieve Queen Solange instead. In an alternate timeline, Ursula senses something bad about the housekeeper's day trip and makes an effort to bar her from the house. When this fails, Ursula gets another chance in another timeline, shoving the housekeeper out the kitchen door and spraining her ankle. When this fails to deter her from her day trip, Ursula tries yet again, shoving Bridget down stairs and breaking her arm.
The Spanish flu eradicated from their lives, Ursula has to explain her behavior to her mother. Ursula feels that she's able to anticipate things before they happen. A neighbor's daughter is raped and murdered in the hedgerows but given the opportunity to relive her childhood, Ursula escorts the girl to safety. Raped herself by one of Maurice's college friends on her sixteenth birthday and pregnant, Ursula gets a mulligan on this as well, kicking the boy in the shins before he can get near her.
One timeline finds her living through the Blitz in London as a clerical worker, while in another, she settles in Germany, where she marries, has a daughter and becomes friends with Eva Braun, offering her an opportunity to stop the horrors of the 20th century with one bullet in But if Hitler had been unable to implement the Holocaust--" "Because he was dead? Then support for a Jewish homeland would have been weak at best.
Pamela's first-born, her favorite nephew, was a history tutor at Brasenose, Hugh's old college. She was treating him to lunch in Fortnum's. Let me mention what I enjoyed about your novel, Mrs. The picture you paint of a family is remarkable.
Every character has a personality and a certain role to play. My favorite is Izzie, a dingbat who doesn't know what she's going to do or say from moment to moment and sees her nieces and nephews as little more than props, and yet, she's the only aunt who visits them or is involved in their lives in any capacity.
When Ursula seeks to abort her pregnancy, Izzie is the adult she goes to for help. Rather than remain static, the Todd family stays in flux, their comings and goings related with excellent prose and wonderful wit. Your descriptions of a bygone era are clear and fanciful. It was as well, she thought, that the war had robbed her of any care for fashion.
She was wearing, in order, from inner to outer--a short-sleeved vest, a long-sleeved vest, a long-sleeved pullover, a cardigan and stretched on top of it all her shabby old winter coat, bought new in Peter Robinson's two years before the war. Not to mention, of course, the usual drab underwear, a thick tweed skirt, gray wool stockings, gloves and mittens, a scarf, a hat and her mother's old fur-lined boots.
Pity any man who was suddenly moved to ravish her. Enid had auditioned for the part of plucky young London woman somewhere around and had been playing it with gusto ever since. Ursula chided herself for more unkind thoughts.
Enid was a good sort. Terrifically skilled at typing tabulations, something Ursula had never quite got the hang of when she was at secretarial college. She had done a typing and shorthand course, years ago now--everything before the war seemed like ancient history her own. She had been surprisingly adept.
Carver, the man who ran the secretarial college, had suggested that her shorthand was good enough for her to train as a court reported at the Old Bailey.
That would have been quite a different life, perhaps a better one. Of course, there was no way of knowing these things. I didn't need a thrill ride, but didn't feel that you felt comfortable exploring the paranormal. I would've enjoyed this novel had it simply been about Ursula Todd and her mother.
Any story would've done. You devote 90 pages to Ursula working as a rescuer during the Blitz and though well-written, it still comes across as a big info dump. I had to skim the last pages. It's a close call for me, Mrs. Atkinson, but I can't recommend anyone devote time to a novel as resistant to story as this one. View all 24 comments. As if something had got stuck. Was she stuck? And if so, where? She seems to explore a zillion what if scenarios as Ursula is given life after life in Life after Life.
What if this had happened instead of that ; if this choice were made instead of that one? Ms Atkinson has plenty of ideas about the subject matter, and she turns each situation inside out, upside down and back to front. A small tweak here, a little twist there. At times it is almost as though Ursula has stepped through the mirror to see life from another point of view, for example view spoiler [ she experiences WWII whilst living in England, and then she lives through the war again but this time in Germany.
So many lives, so many possibilities Here today, gone tomorrow. Great writing, wry humour. A lovely and unusual book about reincarnation, free will and destiny.
Ursula Todd was born on a snowy day in February with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. That was the first time she died I loved how Kate Atkinson built this story through seemingly insignificant details. As the reincarnations progress, layers are added upon layers, so that by the end of this tale, it is a rich tapestry of events, emotions and possibilities. I was surprised by the open-endedness of this story. I feel A lovely and unusual book about reincarnation, free will and destiny.
I feel like Atkinson wrote a tale that reads like real life- it has the meanings that we assign it. Nothing more, nothing less. I listened to the audiobook of Life After Life and it was very good. A few times, I wished that I had the physical book in front of me so that I could double check a date or detail.
Other than that, the narration was excellent. This story has me wondering about life, reincarnation and all of it. If, as so many world religions say, there are parts of us that are immortal, wouldn't we all go a bit bonkers after millennia of existence? Would we get bored of it? Would we ever choose to not come back? What's the bigger picture?
Anyway, this book will make you wonder, question and dream about existence. Which, in my mind, is one of the highest functions of a book. Recommended for fans of historical fiction, spirituality and life itself. I think Atkinson has written a masterpiece. View all 10 comments. What if you could go back and kill Hitler?
I think that's a question many people have asked themselves in their lives. It's one of the biggest "what ifs" of the last century. And in this novel, it was the plot point I was most in denial about. I was fearful that such a question as the premise of a novel--as the opening scene shows our main character, Ursula Todd, shooting Hitler--would be gimmicky.
But we are immediately transported back to when Ursula is born on a cold snowy night. And die What if you could go back and kill Hitler? And dies. Then she's born again, makes it a few years, and dies. And so on and so forth, the novel proceeds. We follow Ursula as she grows up in rural England during the first and second world wars.
She's from an eclectic family, with many close siblings, an adoring father, and infuriating aunt. There's a strong sense of the pastoral, of the importance of nature. And really I think in a way, this novel is a love letter to England's resilience. It's also almost solely about Ursula's agency. Atkinson is commenting, through so many diverging narratives, on the opportunities of women during this time period, and how Ursula, through her decisions, ultimately shapes her future and the futures of those with whom she comes in contact.
The plot to kill Hitler recedes so far into the background we nearly forget it exists for much of the book.
I think what's most successful about this story is also what makes it so frustrating. It's shadowy and inconclusive. We see Ursula die, and we just want to watch her live a full life and do it right. But when we finally do, we are left with ambiguity. In the end, I appreciate the story's opaqueness. It was extremely thought provoking and left me with so much to chew on. Though there were sections that dragged, in hindsight they're relevant and necessary to the story, so I can forgive their pacing.
And after all that's said, I did read it in two days; I just couldn't put it down. View all 3 comments. Dec 12, Trish rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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: And this is the message.
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. Therein lie our power, and the power of the fiction writer. So, you see, I was caught, too.
Deja vue? Like young Ursula's drawing of a snake with his tail in his mouth, which the psychiatrist, Dr. Kellet, deemed a symbol of the circularity of the universe. It would have been a scary thought for Sylvie, who refused to drink the tea offered by Dr Kellet from his Russian samovar.
Any tea out of anything else than a china teapot was undrinkable according to her own believes. Dr Kellet steepled his hands an propped his chin on them. Would you like a biscuit? The photograph of Guy, lost at Arras in his cricketing whites was missing from the side table.
Without meaning to - it was a question - she said to dr Kellet, 'Where is the photograph of Guy? What wondrous life Ursula lead! It was another samovar in a Russian Tea Room many years later, that would bring the future in a veil of fog to her.
Like bomb-dust, she thought, yet she had never been bombed. The future waited for her. She was there before. She was never there before. The past would leek into the present, as if there were a fault somewhere. Or was it the future spilling into the past? Time was out of joint, that was for certain.
Too many interruptions and way too many late night efforts to catch up with it. Hence my really big confusion. I need to reread this book in retrospect. I only grasped the story almost right at the end. The birth and death of Ursula. Before that I was questioning the meaning of the tales, which never lead to any endings. I questioned my desire to keep on reading a senseless, yet very well-written set of novellas.
The only common denominator was Ursula as protagonist in them all. Her family constantly featured in all of them, but each time with different outcomes.
Each segment ended with 'Darkness fell'. It was confusing to say the least. No forewarning of any kind. What if Life after Life is about being given that chance. Read it before you make an attempt! I did not. Ursula is the third child of Sylvie and Hugh Todd, brought up in an idyllic English upper-middle-class country home, sister to the soulless and pragmatic Maurice and jolly-hockey-sticks Pamela.
Teddy, the sunny family darling, arrives soon after, then, finally, Jimmy, conceived after Hugh's return from Flanders Fields. Swelling the dramatis personae are disreputable Aunt Izzie — ripe to play a pivotal role in many of Ursula's crises — Mrs Glover the dour cook, and Bridget, the plain-faced Irish maidservant. Beyond this basic set up, all bets are off Eva Braun and Hitler would appear in the fog like bomb-dust. Real and clear. A brutal war in graphic detail would populate a future spilling into the past and present.
A, kind-of, biographical novel emerged from it all. A very good one. An excellent one. Towards the end time moved backwards. All the time. And forward again with leaps and bounds. Two world wars featured strongly.
I escaped, confused, but unscathed. An atmospheric, suspenseful, richly-textured, literary tale nestled in my foggy brain. It could have been five brilliant stars if I was able to grasp this light touch to a grizzly period in Britain and Germany's history better. Thanks to my good mood four stars celebrate an excellent author at work here. A challenging experience.
Worth the read though. GR friends made the experience so much more enlightening with comments like these in their brilliant reviews: Will Byrnes: And Steve: Ursula may have a vivid imagination, but so has Kate Atkinson. Don't despair. It's an unusual literary style to follow, but not impossible to appreciate in the end.
View all 17 comments. Mar 16, Michael rated it really liked it Shelves: I love the perspective this book gave me on the meanings of mortality and clues about how to make sense of all the choices life is made of. The meaning part filtered in on my personal river. In the very first pages, Ursula dies at birth in the winter of in rural England, but then a second time around the doctor arrives before the snowstorm gets bad and she is saved.
The very first scene in the book tells us that one fate involves Ursula trying to change history by killing an early Hitler in Bavaria in In between there are a number of other unfortunate ends and restarts, with many paths leading to long stretches in London and surrounds during the Blitz in World War 2. There it is common for Ursula to serve bravely as a volunteer in night-time bomb response squads while holding a day job as a government cleric in Bletchley Park processing data on bomb damage and casualties.
Other life paths lead to alternative careers, married vs. I like the philosophical playfulness Atkinson weaves around her premise.
What if we had a chance to do it again and again until we finally did get it right? Their work leads Ursula to consider how the flow of time back on itself can conform metaphorically to the Ouroborous icon of a snake eating its own tail. Other metaphors abound in the book. This one that had me scratching my head a bit: What is it Heraclitis says? One cannot step in the same river twice. Instead, much of the book is a rich evocation of family life of the time.
We learn much about Ursula as one of five kids in a well-to-do family of a banker, Hugh, and a loving mother, Sylvie, living at a rural estate outside of London. Later, during the Blitz coverage, it is the courage and resilience of ordinary people that dominate the stage with Ursula. I ended up worrying less about her fate and relatively more about the friends, lovers, family, and even the strangers she seeks to save on emergency response squad.
The status of the reality left behind when her life is reset is unclear. I like to think her pathways through time reflect a portrayal of current physics theories of alternative universes splitting off at various choice points, although this possible interpretation is not raised in the narrative.
In another way, the book gave me some of that eerie sense of empowerment over fate I used to get with early role playing games. Of course this analogy only goes so far. The big picture for me is that in the absence of any reset, we better play the game right in the first place. Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread Book of the Year award for her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum , and has been an internationally bestselling author ever since.
Atkinson lives in Edinburgh. Toggle navigation. New to eBooks. How many copies would you like to buy? Add to Cart Add to Cart. Add to Wishlist Add to Wishlist. What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?
On a cold and snowy night in , 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?
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