Life After Life Online by Kate Atkinson Click Here to Download the Book 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.
Reviews When I first read the synopsis... When I first read the synopsis of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, I immediately wondered how Ursula Todd would come back to life. Would it be like Captain Jack Harkness in the television series Torchwood, where moments after death she'd revive with a huge gasp for air? Would it be more like the movie Groundhog Day, with all the frustration that came with not being able to escape the loop? Would she be aware of what was happening? Would other people be aware of it happening to her? No matter how many possibilities I envisioned, I was still surprised by the way Kate Atkinson crafted this plot point. It is handled with ingenuity and originality; never cheesy, never trite. I'm purposely being vague here, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. But I think every time I feel déjà vu in the future, I'll be reminded of this novel... Much of the story took place in London during the bombings (the "Blitz") of WWII. These pages were terrifying and heart-wrenching. I would start to feel overwhelmed and think, "Is this ever going to stop?" I'd want to put the book down for a while, and then feel guilty. I'd been reading over the course of only two days, and could take a break whenever I wanted. London had 57 nights in a row of bombings. Atkinson gives readers an incredibly vivid portrayal of war, a poignant and multifaceted look at its enormity and how distressing - and wearying - it is for all involved. Life After Life is beautifully written and reads like a classic. Wonderfully complex, it's a story you could read over and over and always make new connections.
There is a fine line between living and dying, “There is a fine line between living and dying,” a character observes in Kate Atkinson’s new novel. And it does certainly seem to be the case here, in the midst of two world wars, during the Great Influenza, at the beginning of the twentieth century in Britain. Characters come close to death, and some do not escape it: alternate histories are woven together until we are not really sure what is true. And this is the message. “History is all about ‘what ifs’” a character says late in the novel. More to the point here, perhaps, is that fiction, and this fiction in particular, is all about ‘what ifs’. This is my first experience with what I would call a literary mash-up. Mash-up is a relatively new concept in literature that was borrowed from music where two or more songs are combined, usually by laying the vocal track of one song over the instrumental track of another. Wikipedia defines a literary mash up as taking a pre-existing work of fiction, often a classic, and combining perhaps thirty or forty percent of it with a vampire, werewolf, or horror genre. Atkinson has taken “classic history,” which is the Führer’s horror story, and overlaid
many possible stories (love stories, family histories, employment possibilities) so that outcomes in some cases are different for individuals, but not, that we can see, in the larger history. Stories cascade upon one another, all centered around a single family, indeed, a single person, Ursula, who we meet in the first chapter and who succeeds, we think at first, in killing the Führer. “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.” The juxtaposition of the chapters makes one remember those times when we stare into the unknowingness of the future and wonder what it will hold for us…and once there, looking back at the innocence of the early years, when we proceeded with our lives as though we had any control at all. Which brings me to a larger observation in this novel and in Atkinson’s fiction in general: oftentimes Atkinson’s characters are not agents of change, but reagents, possibly causing a chain reaction when they are introduced, possibly having no discernible impact at all. “Most people muddled through events and only in retrospect realized their significance. The Führer was different, he was consciously making history for the future.” Sometimes there are exceptional people, but even they cannot escape that possibility that “one thing” could change everything. Therein lie our power, and the power of the fiction writer. The title, Life After Life, points to those lives impacted by another’s life, or a close escape from death, or lives that continue after another has died, or simply the alternate histories we all might have if “one thing had been different.” When the book and the stories were drawing to a close, I admit I didn’t want to get to the end. I didn’t want another person to die unexpectedly. I didn’t want Ursula to grow older. I didn’t want to know which story was true. So, you see, I was caught, too.
Ursula This is by far one of the most entertaining and intriguing novels I have ever read. I will not try to describe it as it truly defies description. If I had to sum it up in a sentence I would say: A marvelous morality tale of what ifs and what could bes. Ursula, the main character, has a chronic case of deja vu. With it, she gets a do over when she needs it. This way, everyone gets a happy ending. A totally charming novel, I found it difficult to put down.
I tend to be skeptical of books that have a big fuss made about. I tend to be skeptical of books that have a big fuss made about them, finding them either too “artsy” or too “James Patterson-ish” -not literary at all. But Life After Life far exceeded my expectations. It was well-written with a great sense of atmosphere, a believable but likeable protagonist, and a great sense of time and place. The main character, Sophie, is born again and again throughout the novel on a chilly evening in February 1910. Each lifetime a circumstance changes sending Ursula and her family’s future on a different trajectory. What if we get to live again and again until we get our life right? Highly recommended for fans of historical and literary fiction!
Highly Recommended It's hard to read a Kate Atkinson book and not be awed by her graceful writing, mischievous plotlines, and deft command of the English language. Words take flight as her tales unspool. Life After Life proves yet again she is at the top of her game.
I thought this book was absolutely fabulous. I thought this book was absolutely fabulous. And now that it's been about a week since I've read it, I find myself walking around with the constant sense that the past is everpresent with me; it's not over, it's just behind the thinnest veil. The connection and roads not taken are still here, impinging on every minute, and everything in life seems very tentative and interconnected--a miraculous and changeable weave. Kate Atkinson is a master storyteller. When I read her it's like watching Picasso draw a single line that turns immediately into a living creation. We know Kate Atkinson's Ursula Todd is entirely fictional, but in her provisionality, she is somehow more than that, much more alive and active in all her variation than all other characters we've read. A truly stunning achievement.
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