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Life After Life: A Novel | [Kate Atkinson]

Life After Life: A Novel

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

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3.9 (1373 )
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  •  
    Tim Sneath Seattle, WA 06-06-13
    Tim Sneath Seattle, WA 06-06-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Astonishing Vocal Performance"
    What about Fenella Woolgar’s performance did you like?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer MA, USA 06-01-13
    Amazon Customer MA, USA 06-01-13 Member Since 2006

    barbstur

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    "Wonderful read.."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carla corning, NY, United States 05-30-13
    Carla corning, NY, United States 05-30-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Great book for reading - not listening"
    What disappointed you about Life After Life?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Oak Ridge, NC, United States 05-21-13
    Michelle Oak Ridge, NC, United States 05-21-13

    Just a very curious person.

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    "Worth the Hype"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zu-Zu 05-19-13
    Zu-Zu 05-19-13
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    "Kate Atkinson at her finest"
    What did you love best about Life After Life?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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?

    "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.


    Any additional comments?

    I totally enjoyed listening to Fenella Woolgar. She brought the language to life.

    Can't wait to discuss this in my book group.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 05-15-13
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 05-15-13 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

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    "The roads not taken . . ."

    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.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Portland, OR, United States 05-10-13
    Patricia Portland, OR, United States 05-10-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Hmm...Well...It is Kate Atkinson but..."
    What did you like best about Life After Life? What did you like least?

    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!!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. T. Mueller Washington, D.C. 05-08-13
    C. T. Mueller Washington, D.C. 05-08-13 Member Since 2006

    Mystery Cat

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    "LOVE IT"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    nevina CT, United States 05-08-13
    nevina CT, United States 05-08-13 Member Since 2006

    nevina

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    "Drop everything and read this now."
    Have you listened to any of Fenella Woolgar’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but she was excellent. I have rarely heard better.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 05-06-13
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    "What if you could live again and again, until . ."

    . . 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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