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Life After Life

(Todd Family #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  216,403 ratings  ·  25,615 reviews
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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 die
Kindle Edition, 544 pages
Published March 14th 2013 by Reagan Arthur Books
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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 t…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)
Katrina Stonoff Alethea, I think the real question is ... does it actually end where it ends?

I read an interview with Atkinson where she said she doesn't see the stor…more
Alethea, I think the real question is ... does it actually end where it ends?

I read an interview with Atkinson where she said she doesn't see the story as over at the end. She sees Ursula continuing to live life after life, tweaking her decisions, long after the book ends. In fact, she said she thinks eventually Ursula may even be successful at assassinating Hitler.

I think that's why she ended with the midwife -- to clue us in that Ursula is just beginning another run at her life.(less)

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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
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
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
Paul Bryant
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels

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
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
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!
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

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
Will Byrnes
“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 Englan
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

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
Emily May
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, 2014
“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
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ah-deadly
This book is so painfully fantastic, I’m going to kind of ignore the fact that it stops making sense at the end. Is there a word that simultaneously means achingly lovely & frustratingly confusing? Ursula Todd is born in 1910 with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck & dies without ever drawing breath. Ursula Todd is born in 1910 with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The doctor cuts the cord & Ursula grows to age five, when she drowns in the ocean on holiday. Ursula Todd is born ...more
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain, 2013
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 bloop ...more
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, wwii
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
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I expected to be Borgesian, absolutely meta, actually turned out a tad gimmicky &, no joke, choose-your-own-adventure-like. But no problem. It has a huge heart & employs a super witty use of parentheticals, of asides. It is optimistic in the face of oblivion. W.W.II. And, even though I know I insult discerning readers when I say that this is like Ian McEwan's Atonement, Redux; but... this novel is Atonement Redux. ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Life After Life (Todd Family #1), Kate Atkinson

Life After Life is a 2013 novel by Kate Atkinson. It is the first of two novels about the Todd family. The second, A God in Ruins, was published in 2015.

The novel with unusual structure, repeatedly looping back in time to describe alternative possible lives for its central character, Ursula Todd, who is born on 11 February 1910 to an upper-middle-class family near Chalfont St Peter in Buckingham shire. In the first version, she is strangled by her
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 *Eff your feelings*
“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
Michael Jensen
Oct 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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.

A baby is born and then dies, as snow falls over England in 1910, fade to darkness. The same baby is born and lives to be named Ursula Todd. And this is how this book proceeds with Ursula, or is that with us readers(?); for everytime death comes to Ursula, the next chapter has a different outcome. There's always a second chance.

But this book is more than a parade of what ifs; through the minutiae of everyday life for Ursula, Atkinson maps the progress of England before, during and in between the
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
2.5 stars. I didn't know it then, but some of my schoolwork from my younger days were palimpsests, manuscripts on which the original writing has been erased to make room for later writing, but where traces of the original writing remain.

Ursula Todd compares her life (lives) to a palimpsest: she has an apparently infinite number of do-overs of her life. It's kind of like Groundhog Day, except that she starts over at birth each time, and each life ends with her death. She has frequent deja vu exp
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
“No point in thinking, 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.”

While I can understand the mixed reaction, and wouldn't call it a book for everyone, Life After Life is a beautifully written, acutely English, slow-burner of a novel, a beautiful piece of family drama and comedy, and a fantastic work of historical fiction. It's wrapped in a high-concept conceit of our protagonist Ursula's continual
Joe Valdez
Dear Kate Atkinson. You're a perceptively gifted writer and your 2013 novel Life After Life captivated me early. I saw exactly what you were doing, liked it and loved the way you set the table. I felt like I was part of the Todd family, struggling through two world wars as a natural woman with an unnatural talent, déjà vu, and her ability to learn from past life experiences to change the future. I was turning the pages up to a point and the table dressing is beautiful. I can't recommend your nov ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
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
Heidi The Reader
A lovely and unusual book about reincarnation, free will and destiny.

Ursula Todd was born on a snowy day in February with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. That was the first time she died...

I loved how Kate Atkinson built this story through seemingly insignificant details. As the reincarnations progress, layers are added upon layers, so that by the end of this tale, it is a rich tapestry of events, emotions and possibilities.

I was surprised by the open-endedness of this story. I feel
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
What if you could go back and kill Hitler? I think that's a question many people have asked themselves in their lives. It's one of the biggest "what ifs" of the last century. And in this novel, it was the plot point I was most in denial about.

I was fearful that such a question as the premise of a novel--as the opening scene shows our main character, Ursula Todd, shooting Hitler--would be gimmicky. But we are immediately transported back to 1910 when Ursula is born on a cold snowy night. And die
One character show up in different historical moments of the Blitz during WWII.

Reincarnation? Deja vue? Perhaps. Like young Ursula's drawing of a snake with his tail in his mouth, which the psychiatrist, Dr. Kellet, deemed a symbol of the circularity of the universe. 'Time is a construct, in reality everything flows, no past or present, only the now,' he said.

It would have been a scary thought for Sylvie, who refused to drink the tea offered by Dr Kellet from his Russian samovar. Any tea out o
“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
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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,

Other books in the series

Todd Family (2 books)
  • A God in Ruins (Todd Family, #2)

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“Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness, a conundrum that she couldn’t even begin to solve.” 317 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?” 122 likes
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