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Life After Life | [Kate Atkinson]

Life After Life

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?
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Publisher's Summary

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, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

©2013 Kate Atkinson (P)2013 Random House Audiobooks

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (63 )
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4.1 (54 )
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4.5 (55 )
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  •  
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 04-22-13
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 04-22-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    211
    80
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    "A puzzle - is it worth the effort?"

    If you could live your life over time and time again, would you/ could you ever get it right? That is the central question of this book. The next question posed is if this ability to relive your life would be a gift or a curse. This is a book of fantasy and historical fiction. It poses philosophical questions concerning how life should be lived.

    Atkinson's writing is clever, both the questions she poses and her ironic, satirical, sarcastic and often sardonic humor. Don't expect good-natured laughs based on happiness. It is solely because of the writing that I have chosen three rather than only two stars.

    The book is confusing. Not only does the reader jump back and forth in time but also into different versions of the same story, the point being that there is not just one story. The stories overlap at points only to later go off in different directions. The reader must continually figure out if they have been dropped into a different version or a different time period of an earlier version. In addition, many characters are not introduced. When they are first mentioned you have not the slightest idea who they are.

    By the end everything is interwoven. Picture a twine of yarn that is split at several points, each strand going off in different directions. The reader hops back and forth to different segments. Is there one "correct" ending? Is there one preferable ending? Is it possible to choose the final destination? Most importantly, what is the message of the book? Was the message worth the confusion? In my view, the answer is no.

    I thought the author magnificently described life in London both during the Blitz and after the war. I enjoyed the segment set in Obersalzberg, at Hitler's residence Berghof, near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany, meeting up with Eva Braun. This IS a book of historical fiction. Events of both WW1 and WW2 are covered.

    The audiobook narration by Fenella Woolgar was exemplary. Irish, British, American and French accents are all perfectly executed. I believe the audio version further enhances how people of different cultures "think".

    You must keep a paper and pen nearby to jot down the date of the episode you are listening to. In addition, I recommend you read this book quickly; if you read a little each day you are sure to get lost! Good Luck!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LillyBugs Melbourne, Australia 12-22-13
    LillyBugs Melbourne, Australia 12-22-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Miserable, with no purpose."
    Any additional comments?

    **Spoiler**

    Although the writing is lovely, the plot is never ending death and rebirth with absolutely no purpose.
    I chose to read this book as the plot sounded interesting, a chance to correct previous mistakes, for your life to end up on the best path.
    However this was not the case!! In some lives Ursula was able to correct previous mistakes, in the end though, there is no point because each time she is re-born into the same life to start all over again.
    I thought there would eventually be an ending, as she was able to make a "better" choice in the next life, but this is not the case at all!!
    I stuck with the book right through to the end hoping eventually she would live to old age and find peace, but even when you think "ok that's it, that's what she was meant to achieve", it's not as the book ends with her being born on the same day, all over again!!
    Also, on another note, don't read this book if you are having a hard time in your own life!! There is so much death and destruction during the world war 2 (lives), the graphic detail of the London bombings, as Ursula worked as a rescuer, was almost too much and completely miserable reading.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Melbourne, Australia 05-25-13
    Julie Melbourne, Australia 05-25-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Intriguing and fascinating"

    I think this is my absolute favourite Kate Atkinson. What are the pivotal episodes in our lives that alter everything to come? Who can determine the purpose in their own life? An absolute thought provoking narrative.
    Excellently performed by Fenella Woolgar

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shevaun 01-14-14
    Shevaun 01-14-14
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    "Mesmerising!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    The story draws you in from the very start. Over and over the story is retold and the path of her life is rewritten. It's gentle and sad, uplifting and wistful. I really enjoyed it.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susannah Adelaide, Australia 06-24-13
    Susannah Adelaide, Australia 06-24-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Hurry up and write a new book please Kate..."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, but I am biased...I love any book by Kate Atkinson.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Life After Life?

    The bomb scene in the London townhouse when the baby is found...


    What does Fenella Woolgar bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Audible books come to life with a brilliant narrator...


    If you could take any character from Life After Life out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Silvie - as long as we could have dinner at Fox Corner as I would love to visit that house.


    Any additional comments?

    LIke I said, please write another book soon Kate Atkinson.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S Kilcolgan, Ireland 05-30-13
    S Kilcolgan, Ireland 05-30-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Stunning story and performance - Missing it!"
    What other book might you compare Life After Life to and why?

    One Day, The Last Letter from Your Lover


    Have you listened to any of Fenella Woolgar’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, she's new to me, but I'll be looking into her other performances.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I never wanted to reach my destination in the car and turn it off. I miss it since I finished listening.


    Any additional comments?

    I've recommended this to my friends. I just loved it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne Sydney, Australia 07-13-14
    Suzanne Sydney, Australia 07-13-14 Member Since 2010
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    "I REALLY enjoyed this"
    What did you love best about Life After Life?

    It's such a creative story! The characters were so easy to attach to and the reader has such talent for telling the story, not just reading.


    What other book might you compare Life After Life to and why?

    It's such a creative story. I can't compare it to anything because I've never read/listened to another story quite like it.


    Have you listened to any of Fenella Woolgar’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I had not listened to Fenella before but her voice is so fantastic for audio books that I will definately be looking out for more of her books.


    If you could take any character from Life After Life out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    This is a hard one. I'm tossing up between Ursula and Izzy. Izzy would be highly entertaining, but Ursula would the character I would be most interested in chatting to.


    Any additional comments?

    Thank you to the author for such an entertaining story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Hannah 05-28-14 Member Since 2014
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    "a bit jumpy but well worth persevering"
    Would you listen to Life After Life again? Why?

    Yes. A really interesting story line with great characters. Sort of like a choose your own adventure where you can go back and find a better ending, except the author is choosing the new story lines her self, time and time again.


    What other book might you compare Life After Life to and why?

    The book thief or The time traveller's wife for its unconventional story line


    Any additional comments?

    I read comments about how jumpy the story line was and that put me off a little bit. But you soon get used to it and I actually started looking forward to the story line jumping back in time again. A great novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna New Lambton, Australia 03-16-14
    Donna New Lambton, Australia 03-16-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Can I give this book six stars?"
    Where does Life After Life rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 5.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Life After Life?

    Every moment described in beautiful detail by Kate Atkinson becomes memorable. I am literally IN the rooms, the gardens, the wars and the hearts of the characters. The story is compelling, funny, poignant and mesmerising.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The novel involves the retelling of stories multiple times so this is tricky to answer. The whole novel, with it's changing and retelling of scenes and the switching of time and place is just overall, fabulously, deliciously enchanting.


    Any additional comments?

    I cannot imagine this story without the voice of the superb narrator. I loved her portrayal of the various characters and accents, but she does a particularly wonderful job of creating believable voices for the children. The author is fabulous but the narrator is simply divine

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Westbury, Australia 03-27-13
    Karen Westbury, Australia 03-27-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "So tedious"

    I really wanted to like this because I love everything else Kate Atkinson has written. So I kept trying and re-trying to slog through it. But it is so, so boring. The characters are bland, the setting is bland and every time her life started again, I groaned because I knew there was just more blandness coming. Really disappointed

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 10 results
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  • T
    Leighton Buzzard, United Kingdom
    3/20/13
    Overall
    "A satisfying trip through sliding doors"

    I've enjoyed a number of Kate A's books, includding all the unabridged ones on audible, and think this is my new favourite. Well written and narrated, it covers a period from 1910 until post-war, returning time and again to reconsider events and what might have been. Parallel worlds of personal history? The path/s taken/not taken? Deja vu is given an intriguing viewpoint through moving portraits of people locked together by family and circumstance. I loved it!

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    5/13/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Intriguing story of "what ifs""

    Kate Atkinson is such an imaginative writer and has again produced an intriguing, multi-layered story that explores different scenarios for the characters that pivot on a single event or choice in their lives that leads to quite different outcomes. There's an undercurrent of mysticism over the possibility of re-incarnation and the notion that time is fluid such that the past and future can intrude into the present.

    The narrative switches back and forth in time from 1910 to 1967. You might think that this would be confusing in an audio book, but this is not the case: The time periods are clearly sign-posted and the characters seem so familiar that one remembers what happened to them in the other scenarios. The book is rich in period detail, particularly those during the Second World War. I was sorry when the book finished as I had felt so absorbed by the characters lives and made to think about how ones life can change direction in an instant.
    The narrator is very good.

    28 of 29 people found this review helpful
  • Judy
    Bristol, United Kingdom
    4/18/13
    Overall
    "not sure"

    The reader was brilliant. She captured the voice of the era perfectly and brought the characters to life.

    The story was clever, the idea of being born again and again until you got it right, was fascinating.

    It is the first time I have read about war torn London, usually avoid war stories, but this was beautifully done and very evocative.

    It all worked very well .. until the end. Then, I'm just not sure. It wasn't what I expected and I don't feel I understood anymore. I may go back and re-listen to the end and see if I can understand it better. It sort of ..flopped. But the rest of the book was terrific.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Gamester
    England
    6/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gripping, original, fantastic"

    Have read all of Kate Atkinson's books and this has to be her best. I'd never voluntarily listen to /read any WW2 books. But this......stunning and evocative.
    Great characters, fascinating plot, gripped from start to finish.
    Imagine The Time Travelers Wife crossed with Sarah Waters The Night Watch.
    And them some. 5 star.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    4/27/13
    Overall
    "Beautifully read"

    I really enjoyed it, and thought Fenella Woolgar has the perfect voice (she has an amazing range and can do male, female and child's voices very convincingly). My only criticism is that it was over-long.... about 45 minutes before the end I was thinking "ok,.. I think we've finally got there"... and we hadn't. But in general I'd certainly recommend it.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Raymond
    MONMOUTH, United Kingdom
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "Facinating"

    Kate Atkinson does not disappoint with this story where the main character has several opportunities to relive her life. The story is in true Atkinson style with lots of twists and turns and the narrator's voice is very soothing.If you have enjoyed this author's other novels, you should enjoy this.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • susan
    wolverhampton, United Kingdom
    5/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Intriguing story, beautifully told."

    This was my first Kate Atkinson book, and I shall certainly seek out others. The narrative, though fractured is gripping, and the fluent style is reminiscent of Elisabeth Jane Howard
    at her best.
    I agree that it seemed to lose its way a little toward the end, and would the pedantic Ursula really misuse the term 'beg the question' ?

    Despite these niggles, I have become a fan of this author, and of Fenella Woolgar's superb narration.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Pj
    Leicester
    4/9/13
    Overall
    "Superbly written and superbly read."

    There are times when a book takes your breath away - the originality of the story line and the quality of the writing work together to bring the reader something wonderful. That is what Kate Atkinson has done with her latest novel. How often have we asked the question 'what would have happened if...?' - Ms Atkinson has taken that idea and constructed something marvelous with it. The reading too is excellent, Fenella Woolgar added an extra dimension to what is an excellent novel. Her characterisation was superb, and her wonderful modulation kept me spellbound. I could not stop listening. I loved it all.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Lottie
    GRAYS, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Well done"

    Another great Atkinson book full of fresh and original story. What if you had the chance to relive your life until you got it right? Ursella, goes through her live over and over, and each time she does something, it completely changes her past. With much more punch and exciting story plot than Groundhog Day, you realise that your life could go in any direction. After reading this, if makes you see life as more valuable than before, as every action, every person you meet will mark you life and soul forever.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Janice
    Wallington, United Kingdom
    6/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Couldn't finish it"

    I've enjoyed several other Kate Atkinson talking books and was looking forward to Life after Life as the subject matter seems intriguing. The repetition of events is obviously intentional, but the childhood of Ursula seemed interminable and became tedious, so I jumped to the next part hoping it would improve, as I know several other reviewers thought it was a wonderful audiobook. In my opinion it didn't improve as I found the minutiae of description and repetition irritating. The narrator was excellent but even she couldn't persuade me to continue, so I gave up and couldn't finish it.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
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