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Life After Life

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  108,096 ratings  ·  15,312 reviews
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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 w
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Hardcover, 544 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Reagan Arthur Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Ksboydie Hi Anne, we were just discussing this at book club last week. I got this chill when I read one of the last chapters and the author seemed to suggest…moreHi Anne, we were just discussing this at book club last week. I got this chill when I read one of the last chapters and the author seemed to suggest that Sylvie has the same ability as Ursula does to live her life over. Re-read the last description of Ursula's birth - Sylvie is prepared for the fact that Ursula will have the cord tied around her neck with her surgical scissors. The last line of that chapter is 'Practice makes perfect.' For this reason I feel that Sylvie could have been leading one of her alternate lives when Ursula saw her. Just a hypothosis because Atkinson doesn't explore this in any depth.(less)
Lucy Your writing style and punctuation give an indication that the book may simply be too intelligent for you.

Community Reviews

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Michael
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
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karen

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 more 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
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Banafsheh Serov
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
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Tanya

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 dest
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Paul Bryant
DECEMBER 2013


Paul 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 seat
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Trudi

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 more 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 g
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Anne
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 w ...more
John Herbert
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 265...and 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? T
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Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa
I'm embarrassed to say I didn't really understand this book. I'm a huge Kate Atkinson fan and I think she's one of the most creative writers I've ever read. And I loved the idea of this book: Ursula is born, dies, and is born again, living different -sometimes very different - versions of her life over and over again. One of my problems is that there didn't seem to be any "rules" like there usually are in books about time travel and other magical occurrences. Sometime Ursula seems to remember th ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
The snake devouring its tail is an ancient symbol of wholeness, infinity, renewal, and eternal return. It symbolizes the cyclic nature of the universe, creation out of destruction, life after death. Likewise, the famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, advanced the concept of the Shadow self, the parts of your self that are hidden from society. The process of becoming whole, psychically, is to integrate the unconscious (Shadow) and conscious selves, through deep meditation, dreams, or long journey ...more
Stephanie
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?”

Would it?

I believe everyone would love a chance to go back and change things in their past. Correct mistakes in order to change their life or their loved ones lives for the better. But changing one thing may only lead to a new problem……then you have to go back, change the first mistake, then the second one, and so on. I don’t know about you, but this sounds exhausting to me.

Ursula g
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Steve
Chances are you’ve already heard about the device Atkinson used to tell this remarkable story. It was February of 1910 when baby Ursula died at birth, but she was granted a narrative do-over. Next time the doctor made it through the snowstorm to sever the umbilical cord that was strangling her. She also got another chance after tumbling from the roof trying to reach a doll her malignant older brother had thrown there. Similar life after death sequences played out after a seaside drowning, the Sp ...more
Maciek
Aug 07, 2013 Maciek rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maciek by: All the ads and enthusiastic reviews
Bollocks! (?)

I struggled to find a word which would describe my reaction to Life After Life - Kate Atkinson's latest novel, released to considerable hype - and I came up with this. It's no perfect but then my reaction is not perfectly uniform as well; one can't accuse ms. Atkinson of being a hack and phoning her book in, not having an interesting enough idea or even of being a poor writer. She writes well, her concept is interesting and her writing flows easily and doesn't obstruct the storyline
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Emily May
Jun 11, 2014 Emily May rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Emily May by: Tatiana
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?”

Life After Life is a novel I probably wouldn't have chosen for myself. And how sad it is to think that I might have passed this novel over and never known these characters and relationships.

It often seems like I am the only person in the world who hasn't watched Downton Abbey (definitely the only Brit who hasn't) but the favourable comparisons I keep seeing between the show and th
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Jason
I’m rating this book two stars only on a technicality…which is that technically speaking, this book sucks.

Ursula Todd is an English-born nobody. Born into a large wealthy family, there isn’t a whole lot about her that stands out. She shares a closeness with one or two of her siblings, but overall she has a pretty meek personality and remains largely invisible most of her life—with the caveat that “most of her life” in Ursula’s case actually means “most of her lives” because this bitch keeps on d
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Elizabeth
This is one of those books that causes a book hangover. I can't easily go onto the next book (and I have three other holds in from the library at the same time so this presents a problem) because I can't stop thinking about Life After Life. In fact, I couldn't sleep last night for thinking of the book and finally needed to read under the covers for over an hour in the middle of the night before I could sleep.
I imagine I'm not alone in letting my mind wander on flights of fancy in the land of "w
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Greg
This book kept making me think of this song, for fairly obvious reasons once you read just a few chapters, although most of the lyrics are much darker and more disturbing than anything in the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3AWQ0...

First off, why is the American cover so blah? As far as an ARC goes it's fairly fancy, but the double ended rose? Blah.

The British publishers obviously know a thing or two about selling books, put a fucking fox on the cover! Foxes sell shit. Or use the magical
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Trish
“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. Mo ...more
Cheryl
Ursula lived many lives. The first time, she died as she was being born, strangled by the cord around her neck. The snowstorm prevented the doctor from arriving in time.
“No breath. All the world come down to this. One breath.
Little lungs, like dragonfly wings failing to inflate in the foreign atmosphere. No wind in the strangled pipe. The buzzing of a thousand bees in the tiny curled pearl of an ear.
Panic. The drowning girl, the falling bird.”
In the next chapter, Ursula is born again, but t
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Denise
3.5 out of 5 stars - "Become such as you are, having learned what that is."

After I finished this last night, I had to take a deep cleansing breath. The book left me with feelings of disquiet and a degree of moroseness. The story of Ursula Beresford Todd (little Bear) is a very unusual one. She relives her life over again and again. Each time she dies, she is reborn with some knowledge, deja vu, foresight -- or whatever you want to call it -- that causes her to slightly adjust things to change ce
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Michael
I love the perspective this book gave me on the meanings of mortality and clues about how to make sense of all the choices life is made of. I experienced a lot of difficulty over digesting what this book is “about” for the first 100 pages or so, but ultimately was glad I chose just to ride with it without worrying about what it “means”. The meaning part filtered in on my personal river.

Call it speculative fiction if you will, but the book involves an alternative reality plot I don’t mind callin
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Kim

Updated to include a link to the video of Kate Atkinson's session at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival in June 2013

Kate Atkinson’s novels share a number of characteristics, including sardonic humour, quirky characters and an exploration of the highs and lows of relationships between parents and children and between siblings. This novel is no different. Added to the mix is a particularly intriguing plot. It centres on Ursula Todd, who is born, dies and is re-born over and over again, li
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Paul
This is the first Kate Atkinson book I've read, and I thought it was excellent. The effect of her retellings of Ursula's life is cumulative, so it's really in the second half of the book that you begin to connect emotionally with the story. There are stand-out sections (the scenes set in the Blitz, in particular) and weaker moments (the Eva Braun segment is too long and feels irrelevant), but Atkinson's writing, humour and characterisation are always brilliant, and she offers some very poignant ...more
Julie
‘Time isn’t circular,’ she said to Dr. Kellet. ‘It’s like a … palimpsest.’
‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘That sounds vexing.’
‘And memories are sometimes in the future.’

A preternaturally wise ten-year-old Ursula Todd offers us this succinct thematic summation of Life After Life near the book’s end, after she has lived and died many times.

A palimpsest is also the perfect metaphor for Kate Atkinson’s luminous novel. Its multiple layers of theme and plot pile up like shadows, visible through the translucent
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Michael Jensen

I'm not sure I can communicate how angry this book made me and how angry I am that gave up enough of my life to read all 529 pages. I'm less mad at Atkinson, who thought she had a good idea, than I am at the idiotic book critics slobbering all over this nonsensical novel.

Many people have compared this book to the movie Groundhog Day where the main character lives the same day over and over. In Life After Life, the main character is born, lives a varying length of time, dies, and is born again.

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Diane Librarian
This is the best novel I've read this year. It's the story of Ursula, a girl who keeps living the same life over and over again. She was born on an English country estate in 1910, and each go-around she risks being a stillborn because the umbilical cord is wrapped around her throat.

If she lives long enough to breathe, Ursula discovers that there are many other ways in which death will try to claim her. In each reincarnation, she has premonitions of something terrible and tries to change the out
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Antonomasia
[3.5] Don't be surprised if I change that rating back and forth between 4 and 3 a few times. During the last couple of days I've felt warm-and-fuzzy towards this book despite its flaws, but for the first 150 pages I was often intensely irritated.

First off though, this really isn't sci-fi or fantasy. It's magic realism plus a few pages of alternate history.
Ursula is simply reincarnated many times into the same life - always born on the same day in 1910, but living anything from a few minutes to
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Jill
Kate Atkinson's first novel, Scenes at the Museum, began with two words: "I exist!" This one says, "I exist! I exist again! And again!" Life After Life is a marvel. It's one of the most inventive novels I've ever read, rich with details, beautifully crafted, and filled with metaphysical questions about the nature of time, reality, and the ability of one person to make a dramatic difference based on one small twist of fate. In short, it's amazing.

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd arr
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Andrew Smith
I know some people loved this book but I'm afraid it didn't float my boat and I failed to complete it. I think this was for a number of reasons:
1) I'm not particularly keen on historical novels or, indeed, any novels set in England (too close to home - insufficientltly escapist, as some elements are just too familiar). This book, unfortunately, failed on both counts.
2) The narrative jumps about all over the place and I found it too much like hard work to work out where the story was at any given
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The ending..Did Ursula's brother know? Spoiler Alert 61 739 Apr 12, 2015 06:47AM  
You'll love this ...: February 2015 - Life After Life 143 86 Mar 22, 2015 03:52AM  
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Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories,
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More about Kate Atkinson...
Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, #1) When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3) Behind the Scenes at the Museum Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie, #4) One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie, #2)

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“Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness, a conundrum that she couldn’t even begin to solve.” 172 likes
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?” 82 likes
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