Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life

  • Title:  Life After Life
  • Author:  Kate Atkinson
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Reagan Arthur Books (544 pages)
  • Source:  Review copy from the publisher

Synopsis (publisher):  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?

My take:  What a unique story! It’s the first of Kate Atkinson’s novels I’ve read and after a bit of a sluggish start I really liked it. Sluggish because I started reading and then life got busy for me. It took me about a week to read the first 200 pages. So I recommend reading this book in as few chunks of time as possible. I think that would have helped me get into the rhythm of the story more quickly.

I really don’t want to say much about the plot because the synopsis tells enough. Kate Atkinson’s writing is lovely. With each lifetime another layer of Ursula’s story was added. And with each lifetime I cared more about Ursula. There were a couple of times in the second half of the book that I found myself in tears quite unexpectedly. That just doesn’t happen to me very often.

Atkinson brings to life London during the blitz as well as Germany in the time leading up to WWII. We see it all through Ursula’s eyes and feel the powerful emotions felt by many characters.

So, if you’re up for a memorable novel I think you might like Life After Life. It’s filled with good characters, settings, and a compelling era. It would be a fabulous book club selection. There are definite philosophical points to discuss. I know that Ursula, Hugh, Teddy and all the others will stay with me for a long time.

My thanks to Reagan Arthur for sending me the book.


28 thoughts on “Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

  1. Despite the sluggish start it sounds like this was a read well worth sticking with. Hoping my library will be able to get hold of a copy, thanks for the recommendation.


    • Tracy, the sluggish start had nothing to do with the author or her book – that was all on me. I hope you can get hold of a copy.


  2. I join Diane among the ranks of those who have not yet read Kate Atkinson, but just yesterday I bought “When Will There Be Good News” and have also added her latest to my list.


  3. I borrowed the audio from the library, but it hasn’t arrived yet. I can’t wait until it does! It sounds like such an interesting story, and one that I will be sucked in to from the start. Excellent review today!!


  4. It took me almost two weeks to finish and in my case I did have trouble investing in the story. It was very choppy and a little too long. Ursula could have died a few less times. The concept, however, was brilliant and it was so beautifully written that I ended up giving it four stars. And I did like it.


  5. I don’t want to read too much here because I really want to read this one. It sounds very intriguing and I’m glad you liked it. That’s enough for me.


  6. Hi Mary,

    kate Atkinson is an author whose name regularly crops up in posts, yat I have never read any of her books.

    This particular book is already on my reading list however, as I have read a couple of glowing reviews about it in the last few days.

    I am still not sold completely on the premise of Ursula dying over and over again and having the ability to keep reshaping her destiny, but I am willing to give it a try and trust in the judgement in those who have read it before.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,



  7. Add me to the list that has not yet read Kate Atkinson’s books. This sounds intriguing, glad to hear that the sluggish start improved. I’m not sure that this would be a good audio book for me as I tend to listen in chunks.


    • I guess there are a lot of us who haven’t read her books before. Not sure I’d want to listen to this but I’ll be watching for audio reviews just to see how they did it.


  8. Everyone is raving about this one, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! I’ve had that happen too, some books you need to be able to devote large chunks of time to … glad you enjoyed it.


  9. Wasn’t this so good!!???? I loved it. I loved how she chose to tell the story … though I agree with you that it is best read close together or it might be easy to lose the thread of the story. I loved Sophie and Izzy and well… I just loved them to pieces.


  10. I’m hearing more and more about this book, it sounds really interesting. Haven’t read any Kate Atkinson as yet, might have to start!


  11. I have not yet read Kate Atkinson either but this book sure has been calling my name. I have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket that I just may use to get this book! I have yet to see a bad review for this one! Glad you enjoyed it!


  12. I haven’t read her either but friend from a publishing house sent this to me even though it wasn’t one they published! She just wanted to make sure I read it. Must be good 🙂


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