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
If time is a river Ursula can swim to the bank and reenter at different points. The result is a different, though not necessarily better outcome in Atkinson’s book. When things aren’t going well, usually resulting in death, she can go back to the beginning or even some crucial crossroads and have another go at it. There is a subconscious learning experience that seems to gradually produce a vestigial memory along with more satisfactory results. There is a bit of Groundhog Day (the movie) in this but the writing is first rate which makes the different iterations easy and interesting to follow. As the do overs mount up Ursula has a déjà vu inkling that she’s been there (here) and done that before. The psychiatrist fond of Eastern religions that she sees in some of her lives mentions reincarnation. That’s not quite what she is experiencing but there is the aspect of getting it right before moving on to some other plane of existence or nonexistence. A good story of a large family in pre-WWI England through post WWII provides the backdrop for the timeless pursuit of better outcomes. The notion of reliving life is not so farfetched since most of us do it regularly in our daydreams. Atkinson supplies substance to such daydreams through Ursula and does a fine job of it.
The story is kind of like an onion. Our heroine, basically, lives several lives at once. Surprisingly, the author manages to pull it off without much confusion or contrivance. Even more surprising, it works in audio form (credit goes to the narrator as well, who is quite good). I did not give it five stars only because, as another reviewer also mentions, there is one gratuitous event that turns what is a very believable bunch of lives into a fairy tale for a moment. The novel did not need that -- and it makes the book almost fail towards the end.
Still, I liked it. Particularly the fact that, even though the heroine is shaped by the events in her lives, she is -- at her core -- who she is in spite of that.
Have enjoyed all of Kate Atkinson's books. This one is no exception.
Sure, I'd love to hear your story....
UGH! I'm so confused. It's good, not great. It's boring and fascinating. It's clever but kind of cheats to be smart. You should take your time, but hurry along.
This well written, but overly long book has such a clever premise that the actuality of it is a bit of a disappointment. And even with that criticism, the heart of this book is smart and well written, but just requires a lot of patience. I did have more than a few times when I felt like this was a cheat being able to start over just as your character is painted into the proverbial corner, but then she does a wonderful job transmitting the agony of war and loss you're so curious about how our hero's life will be different. This is definitely a long car ride, meandering vacation, listen, but then again, if you put it down for too long you forget where you are when life replays itself.
This is a TRULY BRITISH book. If you're an Anglophile (or entranced with British history shows), you may have more patience with this one than I had.
Never without an audible book on my phone!
In this unusual novel, the main character, Ursula, dies and is re-born dozens of times. Upon each re-birth she enters the same life again and again. And, each time, through pure instinct and déjà vu, she tries to fix previous mistakes that led to her death and to the death of friends and family.
The premise of Life After Life, led me to think about our opportunities for remedying mistakes in the life we are currently living. Surely, we can’t go back in time and prevent things from occurring, but, on the other hand, might we somehow shift our memories and the memories of others?
Great writing and a really unique premise. I would have given it 5 stars overall, but I thought the author concentrated on repeating Ursula's lives during WWII way too much.
I didn't feel like I ever got into this. It was a series life possibilities but I never got to feel like I knew the characters. Way too far fetched in some instances.
Got a bit old and was easy to see what was going to happen as each scenario unfolded. The change of outlook prevented the depth of character development. Some scenarios were very brief and others contained so much detail that the story line (lines) didn't seem to run fluidly.
She was an excellent narrator. Did a good job of differentiating the voices. I will see what else she has narrated and if the subject intrigues me, I would certainly enjoy listening to her again.
Just not thrilled with this rendering of an interesting premise. I chose it based on other reviews - but we all don't have the same taste even if we read many of the same books.
First of all, the performance was terrific. Well done, Fenella. The premise of the story is evocative, however, in audible form, you WILL get lost in the story and wonder where the heck you are...perhaps ebookmarks could help, I didn't try them. Sometimes a rebirth droned on and some situations were uninteresting, others were quite good. I think the book would have benefited from more editing out, making it a shorter book with more impact. Then again, some lives are quite dull. I'm sure I would have enjoyed the book more had I not gotten lost so many times. It is a long book, so the potential to get lost is high.
I felt it was about 2 hours too long.
Historically grabbed my attention about the Nazi era but too long
This book has been sitting in my library for a while. If I had the chance to do it all again I would have listened to it sooner. It's a beautiful story, well written and narrated wonderfully. It will grab ahold of you and not let go.
As a creative writting major I try to read books in hopes of gathering tips and being enspired. Atkinson is an author I adore and her work so rich with description and emotion.
Far more than any historical novel that I've read. Amazing. Imaginative. Addictive. I'm off to read her other books. Starting right away.
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