What If You Could Live Again And Again, Until You Got It Right On A Cold And Snowy Night In , 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

10 thoughts on “Life after Life

  1. says:

    What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right Ursula Todd is born in a snowstorm in England in 1910 but dies before she can take her first breath During that same snowstorm she was born again and lives to tell the tale again and again Life after Life tells the story of Ursula s lives, as with each new life she makes small changes that send her on a completely different path.I feel like I m the only person on the planet that thought this book was overhyped and over rated Sure Kate Atkinson has this trippy ability to create this bleak world while still managing to add some wit and compassion but it wasn t the writing that was at fault The premise of the book makes it sound really good but let s face it it is just Groundhog Day in disguise The book is clever, but it tries too hard to be clever and it didn t really turn out the way it should have for me anyway This book is getting so many rave reviews, I feel like I am a black sheep just telling people it did not work.As I said before, there is nothing wrong with the writing Kate Atkinson has created this lyrical narrative and I did find myself being swept away in the words I even felt like at times I was reading this book without thinking about what was happening a few times I had to stop and process before continuing I almost found myself not noticing a death and Ursula s life starting again and that could have got me completely lost I did feel like Kate Atkinson did however overdo the twists and it turned out to be a roundabout way to retell the same story over and over again with different outcomes This could have worked and it sounds like it worked for many people but I sadly wasn t one of them.I wonder if Kate Atkinson was trying something different and experimental where she could play with the character s death and life, explore the concept of life s choices and their consequences but because there were no real penalty to Ursula s life I wonder if it really worked Do you ever have d j vu I don t think so, but I could check with the kitchen Life after Life just seems to repeat the same scenes, some readers might gain a sense of familiarity and for me it just felt like I wasn t getting anywhere.Life after Life is the kind of book you should probably read in a real cold climate the snowy, dark and sometimes bleakness of the novel seems to call for it Maybe read snuggled up on a dark winters night and don t forget your booties cause it s cooooold out there today It s coooold out there every day What is this, Miami Beach It is just the book that would work better in the cold though it is never cold here in Townsville, maybe that s why it didn t work for me.I really wanted to enjoy this book I will try another Kate Atkinson novel because I really think she has a great style Just so happened Life after Life was not for me and I know people loved this book and will probably complain about this review but at least it was just an excuse to put some Groundhog Day quotes into something This book has had so many positive reviews so maybe it is just me, if the book sounds like something you d like then don t let this review stop you, is it too early for flapjacks This review originally appeared on my blog

  2. says:

    I wanted to like this book I wish I could enjoy it I bought it with such enthusiasm, and couldn t wait to start reading it But alas, I sensed almost at the very start that it wasn t going to be a happy relationship a point confirmed by mid way through the book.The length, the repetitive scenes, the incredible number of times Ursula dies and is reborn, are all tedious and terrible torment to get through 2 3rds in, I found myself offended for having my time wasted Surely Atkinson could show the courtesy of not subjecting her readers to so many repetitive scenarios I cannot fault Atkinson s writing nor do I have any particular dislike for her characters I rather liked Izzy the best But the plot lost my interest fairly early on and by the end, I positively wanted to hurl it at a wall I didn t I m rather fond of my walls My apologies for offending anyone with this review I understand our tastes are subjective and many simply adore this book But I m not one of them.

  3. says:

    kate atkinson has written a lovely, accordion fold of a novel here.this is not a jackson brodie novel, which are always much better than your typical detective novels, even though i haven t read the last one yet merp , but this one is just so much ambitious in scope and style than even those gems it is sublime.at its most simplistic, it is about ursula, a character who will be born and die all in the first two pages excluding what i am considering to be a prologue and then again and again she will die from falling off a roof, from drowning, from gas inhalation, but she will be reborn again to live a collage of different lives, but always as ursula, and always surrounded by the same family sometimes she can remember her past go rounds, in hazy half memories, and sometimes she can remember , but this is not some hippy dippy exploration of spiritual reincarnation i have never read a book that is human, terrestrial it is not necessarily about getting it right although you cheer inside every time she manages to avoid the decisions that led to some of her horrifying deaths it is about our possible paths, about family, about history.it is about ripples and traps and the horrors of war.and, oh, war i have read many books about england during wartime, whether it be I or II but never have i read one with immediacy than this one she does such a fantastic job with this particular material not just the parts that you would think i would respond to, being of a ghoulish bent the recovery of the bodies scenes were very graphic and haunting and shivery, yes, but i found myself responding not to the shocking descriptions, but to the quieter scenes, the ones which are focused on the national character during wartime the englishness of this novel is just brilliant there is such a pervading sense of one does as one must and then one has tea throughout On the way back from lunch, Sylvie said she wanted to visit Oberpollingers and buy a present for Hugh When they reached the department store they found the windows daubed with anti Jewish slogans and Sylvie said, Gracious, what a mess The shop was open for business but a pair of grinning louts in SA uniform were loitering in front of the doors, putting people off from entering Not Sylvie, who had marched past the Brownshirts while Ursula reluctantly trailed in her wake into the store and up the thickly carpeted staircase In the face of the uniforms, Ursula had shrugged a cartoon helplessness and murmured rather shamefacedly, She s English She thought that Sylvie didn t understand what it was like living in Germany but in retrospect she thought that perhaps Sylvie had understood very well.i love that passage, on at least three different levels the brisk insouciance of a mother accustomed to living in an imperial nation, the shame of a transplanted daughter living in a changing country whose climate she is becoming a part of, but doesn t yet fully understand, and the latent judgment passing as ignorance and this, which perfectly sums up the english spirit No point in thinking, she said briskly, you just have to get on with life We only have one after all, we should try and do our best We can never get it right, but we must try i loved that about this book it is practical, unhysterical perfection there is a determination to these characters in the face of horrors and lives lived always on the brink of destruction that is admirable and almost uplifting you know, if it weren t for all the bombs.this book killed me, it really did and then i was reborn, as a reader it is such a labor of love you can feel how much thought atkinson put into it, with all of its carefully sprinkled echoes from former life plots, and how lovingly rendered are even the smallest supporting characters mr emslie obviously, i love izzie, the free spirited drunken floozie of an aunt, even though she is such a selfish character but that s kind of what this book is about how when we are living our lives, we miss a great deal of what is happening around us, and if we had a chance to step back, to see the bigger picture, we might make different decisions, and in some cases, we could change the course of history.which sounds trite, but kate atkinson is a much accomplished writer than i am, and this book is an absolute triumph.you will have to wait until april to read this, unless you are greg, and are getting it friday, and then it will be mailed off to canada to bill and it is a beautiful looking arc so i am sad to see it go, but one does as one must.come to my blog

  4. says:

    DECEMBER 2013Paul Bryant had really only just started driving back home, was still trying with his left hand to jam the seat belt buckle into its lock, and multitasking like mad he was thinking about how to review Life After Life, and probably getting too caught up in the various amusing ways it could be done, so that he simply didn t notice the car poking far too far out of the side street When finally he did, he had to swerve like crazy, right into the oncoming traffic What with his seatbelt not being properly secured and the 30 ton lorry, darkness fell rapidly.DECEMBER 2013Paul Bryant had really only just started driving back home, was still trying with his left hand to jam the seat belt buckle into its lock, and multitasking like mad he was thinking about how to review Life After Life, but wasn t so caught up in the various amusing ways it could be done that he didn t notice the car poking far too far out of the side street Stupid boy racer He thought as he made a violent emergency stop When he did finally get home he parked as usual round the corner, got out of his car and was delighted to be confronted with one of the urban foxes which visited Sherwood occasionally Such elegant raffish creatures But there seemed to be something agitating this particular one It was moving side to side and then turning right round in some distress What was wrong with it Suddenly it lunged towards him, nipped him on the ankle and rushed away He thought about the disturbing incident later that evening as he sat at his computer and began his review But then he began to feel most peculiar He suddenly hated all the people who had written sniffy reviews of Life After Life comparing it to Groundhog Day as if that may be a totally great movie but Bill Murray is aware of reliving his endless day, and Ursula is not aware of reliving her life, and it s her whole life it s not even Groundhog Life, please, don t get me started but also his mouth was dripping saliva, he had a high temperature, he was sweating like crazy, and his hair was standing straight up Urgggghh..he lapsed into a coma Darkness fell again.DECEMBER 2013Paul saw the idiot boy racer trying to edge out of the side road and slowed down to let him out Why not Let him cause a fatal crash somewhere else When he got home, as he opened the car door he was confronted with one of the urban foxes who visited Sherwood occasionally But this one looked a little strange Thinking it might possibly be rabid, he gave it a blare on the car horn and it ran off Later that evening, sat at his computer, he was trying to marshal his thoughts on Kate Atkinson s pitch perfect contemplation of our little lives and their infinite forking paths Ursula s main problem was that she couldn t change the fact that she was born in 1910 Hitler was always waiting for her and how this gimmicky pop philosophical soft science fiction not quite alt hist novel morphs into a terrifying war story, one of the best descriptions of life during the Blitz ever but his thoughts were interrupted by the roar of a police helicopter They fly around Sherwood sometimes, always en route to St Ann s, which is gangster territory This one seemed to be right above his house What a racket Suddenly, the noise stopped Peace That was not such a good thing however, as the helicopter s engine had cut out and the helicopter was descending rapidly through his roof Darkness fell quite quickly.DECEMBER 2013Paul didn t crash wasn t bit by rabid fox didn t have police helicopter fall on his house made it to his computer in one piece and thought for a moment Yes The review How about this.DECEMBER 2013

  5. says:

    I love book about someone reliving their lives over and over and this one was no exception Historical fiction this time and finally with a main female character The first half was my favorite but if you usually enjoy WW2 historical fiction you ll enjoy the book for sure It was a slow but captivating read, my only complain is the ending

  6. says:

    Oh dear dear dear dear dear Obviously I m on another planet to all the other reviewers here, but try as I might, I simply had to give up on page 265and call it a day.The concept of constant re births and lives was a good one but sadly, for me,the incidents throughout were so tame and tepid, and the characters that popped into Ursula s lives were so boring, I m afraid the whole thing was like watching paint dry.Remember that feeling of rushing to get back to a book to read what happens next This was the exact opposite dreaded picking it up, and trying to dredge up some interest in this conglomeration of non entities Having paid 15.99 for this attractive looking hardback, I felt that I had to do the payment justice and at least give it a good try.but just over half way..enough was enough If you want to really read a book that does this multi life premise true justice, then read KEN GRIMWOOD S book entitled REPLAY.Now you re talking.

  7. says:

    Ursula Todd is born in the midst of a blizzard in 1910, not once, but many times, during the course of her life living only to die and be born again, repeatedly, traveling many paths until she lives the life she was meant to live.Kate Atkinson s writing is superb, and lyrical enough that it carried me through to the end of this book The plot, however, left me floundering for weeks, trying desperately to claw my way to the end of this depressing tale While the premise reincarnation and destiny is interesting, the execution left me frustrated.The early chapters of the book are very short, as Ursula is born, dies, and is reborn again with rapid succession With each successive life, she lives longer in most cases and is developed and as a character The choppy format of the early chapters make it difficult to get attached to Ursula, but as she lives longer, it becomes and apparent that she lives a sad, depressing life In addition, as a result of her continued rebirth, it s difficult to become attached to her, or to feel any real regret or sadness at her passing Also strange is that, as often as you meet them throughout Ursula s life, her siblings never really become fully realized characters As they move in and out of her life, these siblings play important roles in the paths she follows, yet they remain rather one dimensional, as though Atkinson couldn t be bothered to spend the time on them.The book was also a bit too meandering in its plot Lives that led no where interesting or important wandered on for far too long, while lives that seemed to be leading somewhere ended abruptly, only to pick up again to follow another pointless path Perhaps this was Atkinson s exploration of the capricious nature of fate, but it made for some rough reading About 100 pages of this novel could have been trimmed and it would only have improved the quality Forty of those hundred pages should have been the last forty of the book the last few lives lived by Ursula were confusing and unnecessary to the novel.All in all, the writing was exactly what you d expect from Atkinson wonderful , but the story itself was confusing, lifeless, and somewhat empty A hundred fewer pages, a different ending, and fully fleshed out secondary characters would have resulted in a 4 star book for me I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.

  8. says:

    Don t you wonder sometimes, Ursula said If just one small thing had been changed, in the past, I mean If Hitler had died at birth, or if someone had kidnapped him as a baby and brought him up in I don t know, say, a Quaker household surely things would be different Kate Atkinson, author of eight previous novels, including four Jackson Brodie crime books, has come up with a nifty notion for a story Kill off your heroine, early and often, while offering a look at the history of England from 1910 to the 1960s I would love to tell you but an SUV appears to have run a red light at the corner, had a too close encounter with a very large truck and seems to be heading into this caf Gotta go Damn Now, where were we, a review Yes, I seem to recall something about that More of a feeling really So, England, 20th century, perils of Pauline, well in this case Ursula, little bear, of Fox Corner, the manse of a well to do sort, not Downton rich, but, you know, comfortable She has a prat of an older brother and a decent elder sis, with a couple of brothers arriving later Kate Atkinson from The TelegraphLife is full of decision points Walk this way, survive, walk that way and splat It begins early with Ursula, who is offed before her first breath the first time around She gets a better deal on the next go, managing to remain with us into childhood, and so on The structure seems to employ the backstitch a fair bit, starting Ursula up a few chronological paces before the deadly decision point She seems to be born again than an entire congregation of fundamentalist Christians, or, maybe likely a band of Buddhists, as she seems to pick up a bit of wisdom, a bit of strength with each reincarnation I counted 15 passings on, but sure, I could have missed one or two The lady must have G Reaper on her autodial What if I had done this instead of that How might that have changed the outcomes One can imagine the fun, and challenge an author experiences Taking her main character, and plenty of secondary characters as well, in one direction then another, then another It must mimic, to a degree, the authorial process What if I do this to Ursula What might happen What if I point her in a different direction And as for stuff happening, while it is usually pretty calm here, writing while on a bench in Prospect Park, I must admit I have never seen tentacles that size emerging from anywhere let alone the very modest Park Lake The slurping sounds are getting rather loud That sumbitch is faster than he looks Gotta go Damn So, I felt like sitting with some coffee but the local caf just seemed, I don t know, not what I wanted Then I considered maybe heading over to the park to work on a review, but it looks like it might rain, so I think I ll stick at home for now Of course the desktop has been a bit dodgy of late, but no big whup I will dip into the special Kona stash, brew up a nice cuppa and set to, shoes off, no shirt Maybe a nice bagel with butter and strawberry preserves Yummm Review, yes, Atkinson, Ursula, do overs Oh yeah, it does call to mind a bit of Groundhog Day, although Phil the Weatherman knew early on that he was coming back each time Not Ursula, although as time goes on she does develop a bit of a sixth sense about some things And the other major difference here is that Life After Life takes on some heftier purpose than Phil getting the girl and becoming a better person Ursula is faced with some immediate challenges, like evading a rapist, a girl killer, those annoying Nazi bombs during the blitz, not falling out windows, you know, stuff But she also must contend with moral choices, and larger scale Not only figuring out what the right thing is to do and then deciding, for her life, but thinking about how events affect other people, the nation, maybe the world What sort of life does she want to lead How can she help the most people What sort of person does she want to be Can she make an impact beyond her immediate concerns And within that context, others face similar choices Ursula is not the only one with multiple exit scenes There are plenty in the chorus of secondary characters who come and go, or should that be go and come back in varying iterations What if so and so did A this time and B the next How might that change things This is part of the fun of the book Not all the decisions are of the life threatening variety, but they can seriously impact one s life, other lives as well Excuse me a moment, Nala, sweetie, off the desk please I will be happy to scratch you No, do not rub up against my coffee cup Nala, DOWN, NOW Too late, brown milky liquid splatters from the cup on the desk, rushing over the top of the desktop tower, which is sitting on the floor between desk and couch I get up to fetch some paper towels Nala s tail is vertical as she scampers from the room Maybe I should have worn slippers I step away from the desk chair, contact enough wet to matter, and only feel it for moment when my body hair begins to ignite and my heart goes into highly charged spasms I hear the beginning of a scream and then.sonuva. Seems a lovely morning for some reviewing Rainy out Well, not yet, but you can feel it coming So, open a few windows Sit at the desk Well Maybe not Might be a bit too much breeze there Maybe the couch for a change Yeah, book, they killed Kenny You bastards England Ursula War I d always meant it to be very focused on the Second World War, and I don t know what I was thinking when I decided to start in 1910, to get her born I think that s when the coming back again and again kicked in And I was, on, oh, page 250 of the manuscript and still in the 1920s I kept saying to people, Yeah it s a book about the war and then I d think, it s not a book about the war I hadn t realized how much I would get entangled in 1910 1939 as opposed to 1939 1945 from Chatelaine interviewThere have certainly been some wonderful novels in the last few years that play with structure A Visit from the Goon Squad is one of the dramatic of that sort The rise of the novel comprised of linked stories has seen a boom in popularity This year s Welcome to Braggsville takes some chances with form as well And so it is with Life After Life While the notion of reincarnation is hardly new in fiction, how it is handled here is far beyond what we have seen before, a real risk taking And so effective.Ursula is a very engaging character Each time she comes back, you want her to stick around And even when she makes bad choices you will be rooting for her to fix those in the next round Her sister Pamela seems as decent a sort as their brother Maurice seems insufferable, maybe a bit too insufferable We get to see dimensions to Atkinson s characters over the many iterations, learn something new about them, sometimes surprisingly so I found it to be entirely engaging, and was always sad when Ursula went dark yet again The book opens with her taking aim at the worst baddie of the 20th century and you will keep hoping she finds her way back to that place and completes the mission Will she One of the most riveting and memorable elements in Life After Life is the description of London during the Blitz, on the ground, you are there, offering considerable nightmare material, and making it clear just how hardy the survivors must have been, and how fragile the hold on life, whichever iteration a person is in The best part of the book, for me There are many uses of animal references here Ursula means little bear, The family name, Todd, means Fox A group of Nazi wives is referred to as a wolf pack Actual foxes move in and out of the story, residents of Fox Corner, the Todd family home A German is named Fuchs which also means fox There are A warden during the Blitz is named Woolf At one point, Atkinson offers a wink and a nod to readers as her characters discuss time travel questions There is much consideration here of the role and rights of women in the first half of the 20th century, and the changes in s that marked the era The difference between love and gratitude when considering marriage is considered The effect of World War I on the nation is noted as well, the loss of a generation of men in the war, and the loss of vast numbers from both genders from the Spanish flu While florid passages do not characterize the novel, there are some wonderful descriptions One of my favorites regards the night sky during the Blitz It s almost like a painting, isn t it Miss Woolf said Of the Apocalypse maybe, Ursula said Against the backdrop of black night the fires that had been started burned in a huge variety of colors scarlet and gold and orange, indigo and a sickly lemon Occasionally vivid greens and blues would shoot up where something chemical had caught fire Orange flames and thick black smoke roiled out of a warehouse It s spectacular, isn t it Savage and strangely magnificent Yes it is.Now that the task is done, I think I will bring in a glass of juice and have some of these lovely hard sourdough pretzels Maybe catch something from the DVR Always loved these pretzels, except, of course, when bits get stuck going down Sometimes large bits, uh oh, a very large bit trying to self Heimlich, but no go, hitting my head on the edge of the coffee table as I stumble and fall while trying to stand up Maybe if I can get some liquid in there it will soften it, but the noggin knock and the inability to get any air makes decision making a tough go Damn Published 5 2 13Review Posted 7 17 15 EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal and FB pagesInterviews Chatelaine by Alex Laws this is a two parter The link to the second part is at the bottom of this one NPR with Scott Simon The Sydney Morning Herald by Linda MorrisMy review of Todd Family 2, A God in RuinsReading group guide from LitLovers

  9. says:

    I m pretty sure the idea of being forced to live my life over and over again is something plucked from my worst nightmares, but who among us hasn t been at least tempted to dream of it occasionally with a wistful sigh Please, please, please, just one chance to live the best moments again and when necessary, to make different choices But I would imagine if any of us were actually tasked to unravel all the right and wrong choices from our life and to relive the bad with the good, we d go screaming into the night like raving banshees.For what is a perfect life How many kicks at the can would it take for you to answer that question, if it is indeed answerable at all Change one thing, change everything, change nothing, change all the good, change all the bad Round and round and round It s exhausting just thinking about it What s the saying If I only knew then, what I know nowwhat What would you do different And would different choices always translate into better choices Ursula is a normal British girl except she s pretty certain she s lived her life before, maybe many, many times The older she gets, the stronger these feelings of deju vu become, hounding her like ghosts in the night Her prescience is rarely crystal clear, like moods or instinct Do this Don t do that Run away Run toward Stay still Life After Life starts slow and unassuming The story is teasing, the pacing a dawdling, scenic walk through the English countryside But from the very first page I was enthralled and little did I realize what a powerful spell Atkinson was casting on my reader brain Because as you continue to read, the book picks up gravity and speed and texture Each life after life reinforces the tender bonds you have been working on with each of the characters Your acquaintance with them is not one brief life, but many, many lives Like Ursula we are both cursed and blessed with the long view, the big picture We come to know all the various permutations of death, cruelty, love and loss We bear witness through two World Wars and how some forces, no matter how forewarned, are unstoppable, greater even than the hand of time.This is a very English story, and is steeped in pre 1950 historical detail Not ever having watched an episode of Downton Abbey I ll go out on a limb here and suggest fans of that show will love this novel for its acute sense of time and attention to detail Atkinson is ruthless in her pursuit for authenticity This is wartime England, no time to pussyfoot around This has got to be right, and in her quest I believe she succeeds magnificently The details are small but glorious, and paint such an intimate portrait you will feel absorbed into Ursula s quiet family life where there are disagreements and births, and jealousies and forgiveness Yes, there is the rumble of the earth as the German bombs fall during the Blitz, but such terrible moments co exist with the stark ordinariness of a life lived Dinners, and picnics, and birthdays and games of cricket, and work, and gardening, and lots and lots of tea Ow one of the evacuees squealed beneath the table Some bugger just kicked me Something cold and wet nosed itself up Ursula s skirt She hoped very much that it was the nose of one of the dogs and not one of the evacuees.This knowledge of the ATS girl s background seemed to particularly infuriate Edwina, who was gripping the butter knife in her hand as if she were planning to attack someone with it Maurice or the ATS girl, or anyone within stabbing distance by the look of it Ursula wondered how much harm a butter knife could do Enough she supposed There is whimsy and humor laced throughout this novel and it makes for a beautiful contrast to the serious components of tragedy and war Life is a farce after all if you can t find the humor in it you ve been doing it wrong or have missed the point entirely Atkinson has not missed the point As readers, we are in capable hands She has one helluva story to tell you, and trust me, you don t want to miss it This review can also be found at Busty Book Bimbo.

  10. says:

    4.5 stars So much great writing and characterization Such an interesting premise and structure Wonderful use of humor and irony thank you, Teresa throughout Remarkable depictions of The Blitz I want to give this book 5 stars But I can t A bit of editing would have helped but that s a quibble It s very difficult to go back over the same territory over and over again and keep it interesting Atkinson did this amazingly well, tho there were moments of, oh not this again The real blooper for me was Ursula view spoiler hanging out with Eva Braun and Hitler at the Berchtesgaden No way It just would not have happened And Atkinson didn t make me believe that it happened Yes, Eva Braun had friends, but how did Ursula and Eva meet and how would Ursula have been allowed to visit one of the most heavily guarded places during the war These sections lost me they felt lifeless My suspension of disbelief became overtaxed This section reminded me of Woody Allen in his movie Zelig, suddenly and surprisingly showing up in various historical moments That worked Perhaps because it was comical This didn t work because we re actually supposed to believe it hide spoiler