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 am shocked by how much I ended up enjoying this book. It took about 10 hours--really about two thirds of the way through the story--before I was won over and caught up in it all. I was absolutely determined to finish the book and not give up. I will also admit that I was completely disappointed and confused up until this 10 hour point in the story. I have to stress that when other positive reviewers caution that you need to stick with the book and give it time--they mean it. I join them in this warning. This book takes lots of patience. The listener needs to keep an open mind and pay attention. To me, in the end, it was more than worth it. I grew to love the characters. I loved the exploration of concepts of time, war, and the impact of personal choice.
All that said, the story does require the willingness on the part of the listener to suspend disbelief. Also, be aware that the writing has a dark side and at times can be very dour. The experience of the horrors of the Blitzkrieg or "lightening war" waged on the United Kingdom during WWII--in all its gruesome detail is difficult listening.
I already have the next book in my library and unlike other reviews I do think that there is more to say with this story. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Recommended if you are willing to give the story time to unfold. A captivating listen.
I could not put this fascinating book down. I was breathless when I came to the end of it. I quickly downloaded the companion novel, A God in Ruins, and was moved to tears by it as well.
I'm now going back to listen to this novel again, something I never do so soon after the first reading. There is so much technique and so much heart, I need to experience it again.
I learned about this book on NPR from their story about the sequel which just came out. It was not a five-star book for me at first; my thought process went something like,"I thought she died!"
"I thought HE died! Why is this author making me get all sad about characters that don't really die?"
But then maybe I'm not listening to these audiobooks as carefully as I always think I am...
No, NO! Some characters die over and over. This is just an unreliable narrator, but it's okay because the situations and characters are so interesting that I want them to live and go on to do great things, like dig people out during the blitz, prevent a rape, or plan how to learn German, befriend Eva Brown, and kill Hitler
Every time I pay attention to World War II, I learn new aspects of the those horrifying years. Once I got past my confusion, this book was pretty consistently fascinating and the best I've heard/read in a while.
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
"Life After Life" is both the examination of one woman's life, experiences, and destiny, and also a larger vision of how our lives can take substantial turns based on very small decisions or actions. It's beautifully written, and the narration is excellent.
I had a surprisingly easy time following the time jumps and re-sets; if you note in the beginning that Ursula is born in 1910, it's a nice even number to judge the years and her age by, as the story goes along. Every time jump/reset is prefaced by a a clarification of exactly when and where you are.
Along with everything else the book has to offer, it's set in a fascinating time that covers both the first and second world war, and the story highlights what a woman's life was like during that time in England. Ursula's character was extremely well defined and presents you with an authentic, genuine person with a full family life, history, and personality. I enjoyed spending time with her.
There's one sub-plot that the book starts out with and picks up again towards the end that could be considered a bit of an overreach, and in my opinion the book would have stood up will without it. I found it's sensationalism at odds with what was otherwise an intimate and believable portrayal of a woman that could be any one of us, dealing with the extraordinary situation of repeated lives. If I had a vote, I would have left it out; but it did not ultimately hinder my deep enjoyment of the story and the people found within it.
As has been noted by another reviewer, this is not the story of a grand adventure; it instead takes your hand and allows you to step in and view the story of a family, and one member in particular; Ursula. I loved the relationships they all had with each other; they were true to life; an authentic family.
I recommend this book.
This book was really good, but difficult to follow at times. I feel like it may have been easier to just read it. The narrator was great, though. I'd definitely recommend it!
The tapestry of the same life over and over and infinite variations possible. Is it intentional growth? Is it just wondering? What is the goal?
The retelling never gets boring. The narration is wonderful. Highly recommend.
I may just start this story over again right now.
A magnificently written book (Big Kate Atkinson fan!) with an especially magnificent reading. An audio book made in heaven. This is a haunting and perceptive, humorous and tragic observation of a very old soul and each and every character in the book is performed with impeccable depth and nuance.
Wonderful exploration of the endless possibilities available in the " pinball machine" version of all the character's lives. They live. They die. They are reborn to explore other paths. Fascinating, beautifully written. Thoughtful, poetic observations about the meaning or meaninglessness of life.
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