28 June 2013

Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Published: 14 March 2013 by Doubleday

Pages: 529 (Hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Source: Own library


On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, 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 any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

My Thoughts

Many years ago, I read one of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books, and I was rather impressed with her writing style.  However it was only when I saw Life After Life doing the rounds on a few book hauls that I was really intrigued - firstly by the synopsis but also how would Ms. Atkinson create a story out of such an idea?

As the synopsis suggests, Life After Life is the story of Ursula's life - again and again and again.  By the time I had finished reading, I couldn't actually remember how many times Ursula had died, so it's definitely more than a handful of times.  Some lives are short, others last for thirty, or even sixty years, and each one begins in the same circumstances.  She has no memory as such of her previous lives, rather a sense of deja vu that she doesn't quite understand.

Life After Life is one of those books that I had to keep reading - I wanted to know how each of Ursula's lives ended, and more specifically, how the choices she made changed the outcome of her childhood, teenage years or adulthood.   I was a little concerned that reading the same parts about childhood over and over again would become a little tedious, but instead of having the same POV, it alternates between key characters at the time of Ursula's birth, giving a more unique perspective.  And this is also the cleverest part of the book - Atkinson writes it in a way that it's not a verbatim repeat of Ursula's previous life, but in a way that gave me as the reader a sense of deja vu as well as Ursula.

The only part of the book that didn't completely sell me was one of the lengthier and more imaginative lives that Ursula lives - as a work of fiction I can accept it being an imaginative and perhaps slightly embellished plot line, but there was too much of the how missing to make it as believable as the rest of the story.

Life After Life is a very, very clever book that I really enjoyed.  By the end I was very intimately connected with the characters from seeing them in so many different situations and their consistency despite their radically changed circumstances is perfect.  The underlying theme is obviously that one small thing can completely change the course of your life, but there isn't always a 'better' choice.


  1. This sounds amazing. I'm curious to see how this book resolves itself.

  2. Great review. This sounds really good.



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