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.
©2011 Kate Atkinson (P)2013 Hachette Audio
A very different book presenting a life that could have been different-and the alternate life was then presented! Confusing at first but then I couldn't wait to hear another alternate life.
Wonderful story and excellent narrator. I knew this would be clever and have an unexpected ending and it didn't disappoint.
The narrator's performance was the standout highlight of this audiobook. She carries off a variety of languages and accents almost flawlessly, and manages to create a recognizable voice for each of the characters, even modulating them carefully from childhood to old age while not losing the timbre and tone that differentiates each role. Her pace was just right too - fast enough to hold the attention while never garbling or running sentences together. Her narration added immeasurably to the book and the lasting impression it will leave with me: it's truly a reference for quality audio recording.
I am a big fan of Kate Atkinson's work and was not disappointed in this book. The structure of the book is very unusual as it traces Ursula Todd's life over and over again as she is born and dies in different ways. I found it compelling. For me, it was not difficult to follow. Ursula is a character with whom I no problem sympathizing. I particularly liked the descriptions of Ursula's involvement in the support efforts during the war. Those parts of the book really came alive for me. I also found it very well-read. Woolgar has a pleasant voice and was easy to listen to without being boring. Well done all around. I am looking forward to Atkinson's next book.
I like this book but found it almost impossible to listen to - it is so hard to figure out where the transitions occur. This is a situation where the reader need to somehow note the transition.
Just a very curious person.
After reading about the launch of this book in several media, I must say I found that I agreed with the attention and the reviews. If you are a fan of Time Traveler's Wife, you might enjoy this book as well. Rather than focus on the importance of one meaningful relationship like TTW, this book displays the endless possibilities of life mulligans with drastically different life paths. Some might find the lack of a solid ending frustrating, however, I found it as intriguing as the main narrative of the book.
If you have enjoyed Kate Atkinson's early work (for example, "It's Not the End of the World"), you will love Life After Life. Her art of story-telling, descriptive writing, cleverness, and blend of tragedy and dry humor reach new heights here. She is able to suspend our disbelief time and time again. Each version of Ursula Todd is mesmerizing and essential to the plot. Life After Life is a unique experience.
I love the subtle details that change in each version and determine the future. Every time that Ursula makes a tiny decision (study modern languages, for example) or encounters a person or event, a small recalculation in the trajectory of her life follows. We all make choices in our lives, but most of us just pursue the course that we have chosen and don't have an opportunity to live multiple courses. Ursula does. This novel causes us to rethink our own lives.
"Which scene was your favorite?" is a humorous question for this book. Every time that Ursula is reborn is my favorite. Her birth is slightly different each time.
I totally enjoyed listening to Fenella Woolgar. She brought the language to life.
Can't wait to discuss this in my book group.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
The road not taken. Stepping into the river twice. Groundhog Day. Variations on the theme of getting to do it over, and will it make things better or even different. Ursula gets multiple do-overs from infancy, many times with no control over how the next go-round will be played. Is Fate in control or is Ursula, and does it even matter? Fascinating premise, and generally well done, although I got the sense of Ursula being a somewhat detached observer of her own life rather than a full participant. While some of her actions led her to obvious misery, when sent back to the same situation, choosing a different action may have avoided the misery, but never seemed to result in happiness either. What seemed lacking to me was some inkling of passion or depth of feeling on Ursula’s part. I wanted to feel that if Fate had singled her out for multiple do-overs, that it was for some cosmically important reason. What would stir her soul, rally her to action, justify her existence? Is that too much to hope for or is life just life?
This review is sounding more negative than I really mean for it to, because overall I really did enjoy the book. Made me think of all of the crossroads I have faced in my life and how the choices I’ve made, for better or worse, have made me who I am now, and how might I have been different in other circumstances. A wonderful view of middle class English life between and during the Wars, with differing perspectives because of the various lives lived by Ursula. The writing is excellent. The supporting cast was very much brought to life for me – I was especially fond of Pamela, Teddy and Izzy. The reading by Fenella Woolgar was superb – when she voiced Hugh calling Ursula “Little Bear”, I felt the warmth of his fatherly affection. A solid 4-star, very nearly a 5.
The best thing about this book was the narrator. The worst thing was it didn't seem to have any kind of plot. Kate Atkinson is a master of the jumping back and forth between time and characters, i.e. Behind the Scenes at the Museum, but this book just doesn't join the people, time and places very well. It was very disappointing. Bring back Jackson, please!!
I have enjoyed all Kate Atkinson books but was concerned about this because of its description.... I was wrong to be worried. This was so different but so, so good. Keep surprising me!
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