I'm the author of the book "Bronx DA" and an attorney.
The writing in this book is just lovely - super evocative. Atkinson really knows how to paint an environment and make the reader feel. This story is about Ursula, a woman who keeps getting another chance to get it right - like a really heavy "Groundhog Day." What's really successful here is the way Atkinson is able to loop back in time and re-run a similar story over and over again without being redundant. I also love the way that the smallest thing - deciding to wear a dress or not to, deciding to let the boy kiss you or not to, can change the entire future for the character.
There is a rape scene in the book that is so heartbreaking. It's done very differently than I've ever seen before and the horror of the moment is in the absolute ignorance and confusion of the victim. It really helps you understand not just the victim and the environment that she's in, but also a lot about the times - how someone would have been impacted by what they are or are not told. The fallout from the rape is excruciating - you can only hope that it won't happen to Ursula again in the next life.
Woolgar really has a lovely reading voice and it's appropriate to the timing of the book, which is primarily early to mid 1900s. She also does an excellent job of distinguishing different characters and of doing male voices in a way that's seamless.
This is the kind of book you need a break from. The story is relentless. It's very stressful to be constantly waiting for a character to die, but at the same time, be invested in her getting the opportunity to live her life perfectly. I looked forward to getting back to this story, but I definitely needed some breathers!
I liked this book a lot, as it's extremely well written and tells interesting stories about a likable character who has a wealth of interesting experiences over a lifetime beginning in 1910. But the book's structure frustrated me. Not because I got lost as one after another of Ursula Todd's many lives (and deaths) morphed into the next and time shifted accordingly, but because I expected to see more obvious connections and threads in and between her many stories, as one does in Colum McCann's "Transatlantic", the best book I've read in a while. As in "Transatlantic", where real-life characters such as Frederick Douglass and Senator George Mitchell make more-than-cameo appearances, Eva Braun and Adolph Hitler figure in an interesting story line in "Life After Life", adding to its appeal to me. Don't be put off by my three stars, which would have been 3.5 if I'd had the flexibility; try this one for yourself. Having read a number of reviews after finishing the book (the "Most Helpful" reviews currently on Amazon.com are very helpful), I realize that I probably missed many of the literary, religious and other allusions which others say lie under the surface of "Life After Life". You might not.
I don't know if I would try another book by either of them. It would have to catch my attention immediately.
Her manner was so flat, but then so was the story.
I think would have cut the very beginning, where she was born. It really got old.
I was very intrigued at the idea of this story line and thought it had so many possibilities. Unfortunately the book did not live up to my expectations.
First, there were many things about this book that were outstanding. The writing is elegant. The narration is quite good. I will definitely read other books by Kate Atkinson very soon.
My feelings were mixed because I felt that the hopping around to alternate versions of the story did not quite work for me. The stories themselves were great. By the end of the book, I had no sense of where the story landed. Maybe that was the point. If so, it just didn't work for me.
The parallel life-lines should be showed in clearer perspectives. Add some conclusions for a reader.
no, I like the idea.
all equal, Fenella Woolgar is a great reader.
All and all I like the book!
I would try another book by Kate Atkison - she is a terrific writer, but I would READ it, not listen to it. Books that have a lot of characters, a lot of rotating viewpoints, or shift around in time do not make good audiobooks. This book does all three. You need to be able to flip back and forth in the pages to figure out exactly what she is trying to do with time and an unconventional plot. She had great characters and some great historical detail, butt the book went on for what seemed like a hundred pages too long. I had to force myself to listen for the last three or four chapters. The book seemed to belabor what seemed a fairly obvious point, but again, I think I would have felt differently if I'd read it.
A historical novel of some kind
The London bombings are done quite well. Great detail.
It went on way too long.
She is an excellent writer, however, with beautiful prose and great sibling interaction.
I think that this book would be enjoyed by people who enjoy far too much unnecessary detail.
I'm not sure Life After Life turned me off to stories from this genre. Probably not. However, this book has definitely turned me off to this author. Sorry, Ms. Atkinson.
While she was not my favorite, I didn't think she was the worst narrator ever. She did keep the story appropriately somber.
This book sparked much disappointment. The very first few minutes of listening seemed like the book would be intense and awesome, but I would say that the rest of it was very anticlimactic, depressing, and boring.
After listening to the first hour or so of Life After Life, I couldn't decide whether it was brilliant or lazy writing (lazy in the sense that the frame is simply the old writer's trick of coming up with multiple endings for a story in progress). I'm still not certain, but I'm leaning towards semi-brilliant.
What this is NOT is a story about reincarnation per se, despite the claim of several reviewers and the prefatory Nietzsche quote. In each of her "lives," Ursula Todd is the same person with the same name and the same family, born on the same day, in the same year; hers is not a spirit that passes on from one being or form to another. The book is also touted as a meditation on the choices that we make and the consequences that follow, suggesting the "What if?" that is the basis of the writer's exercise mentioned above. In each story/life, Ursula makes different choices or falls into different circumstances that lead to different outcomes, from being strangled by the umbilical cord during birth (hardly what I'd call a choice) to mundane deaths, violent deaths, accidental deaths, and into old age. Towards the end of the novel, she makes an observation that all time seems to be simultaneous--a metaphysical statement that may as easily be the novel's theme. "It seemed even the instability of time can't be relied upon," the young Ursula observes. In a later episode, Ursula experiences a moment of panic riddled with déja vu:
"She had been here before. She had never been here before. . . The past seemed to leak into the present, as if there was a fault somewhere, or was it the future spilling into the past? . . . Time was out of joint, that was certain."
Whatever its theme, Life After Life is a captivating story. In many aspects, the Todd family seems to represent the typical middle class British family of the last century, yet each member is also distinctive in his or her own right. Some, like Ursula's surly oldest brother Maurice, remain constant through each retelling; others, like her mother Sylvie, change considerably in reaction to events. It's easy to engage with interesting secondary characters like her wild aunt Izzie, Bridget the Irish maid, Miss Wolfe, and others. The depictions of the Blitz, brutal but realistic, are particularly affecting. Atkinson helps the reader to experience what life must have been like for those who experienced death and destruction on a massive scale, sensibilities numbed and life dominated by the need to carry on. However, I did find the long episode in Berlin with Eva Braun a bit tedious, although it does eventually link to others.
Atkinson's writing is indeed fine, at times poetic, at other times tersely straightforward, always perfectly pitched for the tone of the moment. Those moments range from charming to horrific, from humorous to spiritual, from jubilant to sorrowful--all the emotions of Ursula's many lives. Life After Life is, in fact, quite an emotional ride. At the conclusion, it still feels a bit unsettled and experimental, unsure of just what it means to convey to its readers. Still, the fact that it entertains so well while making one ask significant questions merits a strong recommendation. Fenella Woolgar, a reader I've not encountered before, does a very fine job indeed.
As I entered the book, almost immediately I drew in my breath in a gasp at the beauty of the writing, the narration...knew that I was in the hands of a fine literary artist and was ready for a momentous ride. From the title one knows that the main character, Ursula, will die often so I was not emotionally harmed by her multiple sudden deaths but set my mind to watch how her life "repeats" related or built to the point where she "gets it right"...and what the author's vision of getting it right would be. Unfortunately after the flow and glow of her first 8 or so life repeats, to me, the book totally loses focus and gets tedious. Still, I plunged on trusting that no matter how boring, the author was leading to a point..any point that might be interesting and even hoped for a little moment of awe. The reader knows there will be a critical scene with Hitler from the get go. It takes forever to get back to that moment of choice...gets there then ends as though it never happened. Huh? Many of the characters know they are repeating their lives to varying degrees, yet nothing interesting is deduced after the reader knows this is happening. Did you think Ursula got it right in the end...the very strange, silly Hollywood ending? Did the end make any sense whatsoever? It is worth a read as it is great writing, you will meet people you like and there are vignettes of the bombing of London that are fabulous, but don't expect any awe and prepare to be disappointed.
I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...
If there's one thing I love more than time travel- and arguably reincarnation is that as well...it's death theory and WWII. I confess I'm not done listening to this for the second time yet- and I suspect there may be more...after all...that is the point...I doubt in print I'd be half as emotionally invested which is everything. I'll tell you more next time through.
So, yes- I recommend it. But it's not a side listen while doing too much, it requires some attention. Beautifully performed though my download had some issues...I blame iPhone there....for me the British can only be understood in their own accent but I'm funny like that.