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
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!
No, but she was excellent. I have rarely heard better.
I picked this one knowing nothing about it except that it was written by Kate Atkinson. That showed good judgement on my part because Life After Life was one of the best and most memorable books I will ever read.Ursula, born in England 1910, lives a privileged but ordinary life. Except for the fact that along the way she dies many times and in many different ways. She somehow gets a do over each time "darkness falls" and usually makes it a little farther with each new try. Some episodes prove particularly challenging to move beyond but that's not to say every perilous situation ends in death. The reader is never quite sure which way a new life will end. When I say new life I don't mean reincarnation. She is always Ursula, always reborn to the same family in time and place. This is no scyfi or paranormal groundhog day type story. It's a beautifully written, thoughtful literary exploration of choices and chance. A celebration of life where Ursula's lifeline is portrayed as a palimpsest rather than a linear sequential occurrence.At first Ursula has no inkling that she lives life after life. Then slowly, feelings of unease or déjà vu began creeping up on her. That, for me was when the book became an unputdownable masterpiece. It takes a very skilled writer to write an essentially similar scene several times but make each telling fresh and somehow suspenseful, but that's what Kate Atkinson does. I loved this book and can't recommend it highly enough. Drop whatever you are reading at the moment and read this now. No matter what you are in the middle of, this is better.
. . you got it right?
Would you? Get it right I mean. Most, if not all, of us look back on events in our lives and wish would have done at least one thing differently. With that comes the assumption that we would have made a better choice, even without knowing then what we know now. But, would we? For each decision we make, some in the shadow of a heartbeat, sets into motion a chain of events, and we can never be sure where they will end. Do we really choose our own destiny, or does our destiny choose us?
Author Kate Atkinson’s newest novel asks that very question. For Ursula Todd, dying at birth only to be reborn and instant later, beginning a pattern that would repeat throughout her life, the links of the chain break again and again only to rejoin in a different place with a new truth. In her different incarnations, we don’t know if we pity poor Ursula or find her deserving of the various travails she encounters as much for the choices she doesn’t make as for the ones she does. Equally as compelling is the character of Ursula’s mother, Silvie, whose own evolution is both perplexing and disturbing.
Atkinson’s prose and gift for imagery is exceptional. If you haven’t read any of her other books (and you certainly should!), this book brings to mind the novels of Kate Morton, weaving together the past – in this case many pasts -and present to a surprising conclusion. It does require focus to keep track of the many threads weaving together at one end and unraveling at the other, but it’s more than worth it.
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I think this was, technically, a good book and I suspect I may have enjoyed it more if i had been reading rather than listening, but it wasn't really my thing overall. It's very grim and takes itself very seriously, but the premise is interesting and the writing enjoyable, often lovely. The narration is also very good, but it's a very convoluted plot line for listening.
I think the book would have felt a little more balanced if the protagonist had managed some happier lifetimes instead of being mostly brutalized over and over, but I supposed that would have made carrying on despite the futility of life just seem too easy. I did, however, appreciate the fact that there was quite a lot of cake.
No, the story is well written but lacks a certain depth.
I did enjoy it and can't complain.
It was so well written that as I went through the book I had to stop and think about how little had actually happened.
I think this book would appeal to many, it just was a bit 'empty' for me. There is no doubt that the writing flows well, and is written in a charming English manner.
The narrator's voice is pleasant and consistent.
No complaints at all, and I was entertained, but it simply wasn't a "page turner".
Wonderful stories of the same person's life. "what if" this or that and would lead to another kind of life.
I particularly like the fact that the writer showed us that the people of countries at war suffer the same. An excellent point.
very sensitive to the characters' personalities.
Complex and mesmerizing
It was a poignant, layered story that made us relive the London blitz time after time, always hoping for a different result. Each "life" added to the tapestry. There was great detail and insight into family dynamics, and brilliant departures as the characters futures were altered by the smallest changes.
Wonderful narration, with nuance and emotion that felt just right for the story,
Yes, and to immediately re-listen.
At first I was disappointed that this new book was not part of the Jackson Brodie series, but that was before I listened to the first chapter. After that, I knew I was experiencing an amazing accomplishment that stands alone as her best yet.
Just finished Life after Life and it redeemed itself for me right before the half way mark. 1/4 of the way into the book I just didn't get it (and all of the glowing reviews and high ratings) and was thinking about throwing in the towel. Then I read a reviewer on Goodreads who said it starts to make sense half way through so I said Ok I'm going to stick with it. Then we started to get into *spoiler alert * Nancy’s murder, Ursula’s rape, pregnancy and abusive marriage. It was just so emotionally charged and heavy I again thought about putting it down but I persevered. Then it slightly shifted downward for me with ALL of the bombing sequences. However as it was wrapping up it was just really good to see the evolution of situations or the back stories and outcomes. I think it was more than a solid effort by the author. Very thought provoking and discussion worthy.
Less length and more substance in each of the reincarnations.
Discreet musical brakes during narration instead of the mostly monotone reading. It was hard to keep track of the storyline as an audiobook.
In a beautifully narrated presentation, Atkinson's novel unfolds to us, layer upon layer, a story of great depth and character. A thriller, a saga, a deep well of richness in which to immerse yourself.
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