AdultFiction Teton County Library's Reviews > Life After Life

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
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's review
Jul 17, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: funny, historical-fiction
Read in November, 2013

TCL Call number: F ATKINSON K

Cindy W.'s rating: 4 stars

The main character of Kate Atkinson’s most recent novel is a new hybrid of cat woman. She has nine (or so) lives, spanning roughly the first half of the 20th century. Atkinson’s cat woman, the daughter of an English banking family named Ursula Todd, dies within minutes after her birth in the first chapter, but in the second chapter, because Atkinson alters the plot – this time the doctor gets through a freak snow storm in time for her birth - she lives to toddlerhood. In the third chapter, she survives the fatal toddlerhood incident thanks to a heroic passerby who was not there in the preceding chapter, and lives to see age six (or so). And thus her lives unfold, each one ending by her own or another’s critical decision, which Atkinson then changes in the next chapter. This multi-life format works only because the award-winning Atkinson has the writing skills to make it work. Although the chapters ricochet around the decades like the super-hero version of cat woman ricochets around skyscrapers, I was never lost. Life After Life is more than anything an excellent work of historical fiction. The scenes of the London Blitz were almost cinematically vivid. Another historical event Atkinson brings into focus is how vulnerable the German people were to a charismatic, power-promising new leader, after suffering blows to their ego and their economy when they lost WWI.

Stephanie’s rating: 5 stars

An astute mind like Kate Atkinson’s is more or less unheard of. She has written an incredible novel about life, love, and the countless hardships we all go through in a lifetime (in this case it’s more than just one). Its 1910. A white storm has been brewing for hours and it has finally arrived along with the birth of Ursula Todd. A beautiful beginning is about to commence, but just as Ursula begins to take her first breath she dies. This is how it begins and ends. She is reborn time after time. You find yourself rereading some of the same anecdotes, and right as you think you know what is about to happen, Ursula changes course. She lives on for a little bit longer, but then dies again. The story resurfaces and off you go. Tragedy, despair, and war are just some of the ways that Ursula Todd dies. This is wonderfully written. Kate Atkinson will enamor readers with her new found story. She has the ability to reconstruct events and bring everything full circle at the end, leaving you to say, “Awwww”. It’s mesmerizing!

Madeleine - 1 star
I did say "Awwww" but more like "Awwww, what are you talking about, Stephanie?" Let's imagine a life allowed to be relived after it takes a turn towards death. You get to read all about the poor decisions of the character and the tragic results and then - magic - a do over! Over and over again. Of course miserable things have to happen to her. Over and over again. And in between? The blandest of stories.
I killed the book after about 200 pages. I should have killed it at 100. If only I had a do over! Oh! Then I could have never picked it up!

Diana - 4.5 stars
I agree with's a beautiful story! I almost didn't pick it up because it seemed like too gimmicky a premise, but Atkinson pulls it off. Also, Ursula's time in London during the blitz makes for some very realistic historical fiction. I loved the Todd family, and much preferred them to the Granthams of Downton Abbey.

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07/17/2013 marked as: read

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