Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
Published by Reagan Arthur Books, an imprint of Hachette

In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen this book around, I’ll do my very best to give a quick summary for you. Ursula Todd is born in 1910 on a winter’s night in England. She dies immediately upon entering the world. On that same night, she is born another time, embarking on a life that is incredibly unusual – she will be born and die a number of times, with each life more different from the one before it. As her lives go on, the world begins to find itself entangled in an awful war, and Ursula finds herself involved in the war in the most shocking and interesting of ways.

I probably wouldn’t have picked up Life After Life if it didn’t seem like I HAD to read it. While the premise interested me a bit, I definitely feared it would get tedious and had it not been for the massive outpouring of blogger support for the book, I most likely would have passed on it for that reason. However, I’m immensely glad that I did choose to read it, because even though it’s not a perfect read, Life After Life is definitely the kind of book that you need to read, think about, sit on, discuss, etc. There’s just SO much to think about with this one!

Atkinson’s writing is divine, making me want to pick up everything she’s ever written for the writing alone. The way she made each of Ursula’s lives have meaning and tie into the next one, with characters disappearing for several lives and then coming back again later, was genius. I have to admit that the first 100 pages or so were somewhat of a challenge for me to get through, I didn’t feel I knew Ursula very well (she was a child for most of this time) and I was frustrated by how often and in what circumstances she was dying. But there’s a point in the book where it completely turned for me and I absolutely loved her, rooted for her, couldn’t wait to see what would happen to her, and that’s when I fell in love with the book. For the rest of the time reading it, I was completely hooked and couldn’t put the thing down.

There’s definitely a ton of ambiguity in the ending, and I was left feeling like I wasn’t sure if I got what it all meant, what was the whole point of all these lives. HOWEVER, I have convinced myself that I do know the point, I get it, and even if that’s not what Atkinson intended I’m sticking to what I want the ending to mean. So there.

So overall, loved this one, I still think about it occasionally even though I finished it quite some time ago, and I highly recommend it. And oh my gosh, what is the next Atkinson I should read? Because I am now convinced that she is awesome.

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7 thoughts on “Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

  1. Yes you and I need to sit down and discuss. I’d love to hear what you think the point was! That is still sticking in my craw, even though I absolutely LOVED the book. I read Case Histories years ago before blogging and I loved it. I have a whole mess of her books on Kindle, waiting for me to go on an Atkinson bender.

  2. I just read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, not long ago, and it was a little tedious but her writing is so impressive it was worth the effort.

    As to Life After Life . . . POTENTIAL SPOILER, here. . . skip this paragraph if you’re a commenter who hasn’t read it . . .

    I think it’s a “What if?” The question being, “What if we live the same life over and over again and those deja vu sensations most people get (and the “warnings” some people get in the form of premonitions) are just a glimpse of our past lives?” Hence the open ending. Just when you think Ursula’s finally gotten it right, she starts out all over again because if that *were* the case, then imagine that the whole cycle of living that same life actually never ends and even if you get it right . . . still back to Square 1. That’s my interpretation, anyway.

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