Anne's Reviews > Life After Life

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
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Mar 08, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: britain, fiction, 2013, favorites
Read from April 06 to 11, 2013

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 was Ursula (view spoiler)

Also, I didn't love the way the book ended. Reading the book was like jumping out of an airplane and enjoying the ride (most of it), trusting that the landing will be a good one. Well, the parachute opened, but very late. The landing was abrupt. I think I still feel concussed. I just closed the book and I'm wondering, "what just happened?" Like Ursula, I'd like to go back up and try that again. Maybe the outcome would be better the second (or third or fourth) time around.

4 1/2 stars.
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Reading Progress

04/06/2013 page 160
32.0%
04/08/2013 page 240
45.0% "Page 113: "Darkness, and so on." LOL"
04/08/2013 page 240
45.0% "Love the humor in this book. I have the sense, at least so far, that the author's tongue is set firmly in her cheek."
04/10/2013 page 446
84.0% "Ursula: "...you just have to get on with life...we only have one after all, we should try and do our best. ."
Teddy: " What if we had a chance to do it again and again... until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
Ursula: " I think it would be exhausting. ""
04/10/2013 page 446
84.0% "Does anyone recall what that is called? When a character in a novel verbalizes the overall structure or action of the novel?" 12 comments
03/08/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 54) (54 new)


Elaine Can't wait - should be out in a few weeks!


Anne I'm with you. Can't wait.


Anne :)


Elaine I'm loving it so far.


Anne I thought you might. I wish I was. The constant change in time period and in Ursula's life are very disruptive to me. I prefer a more "linear" read. Some jumping around in time is okay, but this is really extreme. I see from the reviews that some people appreciate this aspect of the writing and others do not. I'm in the latter category.


Elaine I'm sorry to hear that, Anne, but I can definitely understand that reaction. I find all of Atkinson's books require a great deal of concentration -- and the last Jackson Brodie book seemed like it required too much. I am checking the dates a lot, and jumping back and forth a lot on the Kindle -- but am still enjoying.


Anne I like the idea of what she is doing/saying about having second, third, etc. chances at life. I'm just not enjoying the read. It does take a lot of concentration. Today was probably not the best day to start a book with this kind of narrative - I'm a bit foggy-brained from taking a muscle relaxant. I slipped on ice this a.m.. I'm going to put it down until my mind is more clear. We'll see if I can get more engaged after that.


Anne Thank you, Gaeta. I've done it a few times this winter. I'm out walking when I wouldn't usually because of my new puppy.


Anne Really? That's incredible.


Elaine Sorry to hear that Anne. Feel better, rest up, and treat yourself to some trashy mystery or romance or whatever type of genre fiction you enjoy that doesn't require any concentration whatsoever!


message 11: by Anne (last edited Apr 07, 2013 07:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Thanks, Elaine. I'm listening to The Art of Fielding. Listening makes it easy enough. The narrative is straightforward.


message 12: by Anne (last edited Oct 15, 2016 07:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne The Art of Fielding is a pretty good listen, tho I think a good bit of editing would have helped. I do get frustrated when it seems like the story goes on and on. But, maybe it's different with the book. My biggest complaint is with the narrator. He does a good whiney, insecure voice. When he first used it I thought it was a good take on the main character. But, he uses it for ALL of the characters, men, women, professors, students. It's distracting and annoying. I'm glad you have the book.


message 13: by Anne (last edited Apr 07, 2013 06:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Gaeta1 wrote: "Oh, no. I hate a whiney narrator. Sounds like I should read the book. I ripped it without listening."

What do you mean you ripped it?

Gaeta, you definitely do not want to listen to this book. Whine. Whine. Whine. And I don't think that the author intended all of those whines.


message 14: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Thank you, Gaeta. Oh, so you have the audio. Well, give it a try. If you think it's too whiny you can decide what to do and.... we can have a good laugh.


message 15: by Shari (new)

Shari Thanks for this review...this is EXACTLY how I felt...your real blooper first and then the way the book ended. Just closed the book and said 'What??'


message 16: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Shari wrote: "Thanks for this review...this is EXACTLY how I felt...your real blooper first and then the way the book ended. Just closed the book and said 'What??'"

Thank you for your comment. It is nice to know that I'm not the only one who had these issues with the book.


Teresa I didn't read the spoiler, Anne, but will go back and do so after I've read the book. I'm curious to see if I'll feel the same as you did.


message 18: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Me too.


message 19: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Yes, I did! Glad we are on the same wave length.


message 20: by Michele (new)

Michele Yep, that whole Hitler Eva Braun Part....I was also wondering if the author struggles, if the editor advised her to work differently with that part of the story.


Renee Hessling Couldn't have said it better.


message 22: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Wendt I think that sums it up. I truly enjoyed the book. I did. But I have to agree with you on that unbelievable segment. And the ending, well, I feel like I'm either dense, which I don't think I am, or that it just wasn't quite clear. I sort of want the Cliff Notes for the end. What? Um? Who?
This does not mean I wouldn't recommend the book. I would. It's sort of like some television series I have watched where I wouldn't trade in the experience of those first episodes even though the end does not live up to the expectations. About 90 percent of this book was fascinating and wonderful.


message 23: by Teresa (last edited May 20, 2013 09:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Teresa Teresa wrote: "I didn't read the spoiler, Anne, but will go back and do so after I've read the book. I'm curious to see if I'll feel the same as you did."

The section described in your spoiler didn't bother me, Anne, though I was happy not to go back to Germany after we were done with it. I did like the rest much better, but I also thought what happened in Germany was very important to the theme.


message 24: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne " but I also thought what happened in Germany was very important to the theme. "

Teresa,
I just happened to see this. No notification. Can you say more about what you mean?


message 25: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Stacy wrote: "I think that sums it up. I truly enjoyed the book. I did. But I have to agree with you on that unbelievable segment. And the ending, well, I feel like I'm either dense, which I don't think I am, or..."

I also enjoyed the book tremendously and still enjoy thinking about it.


message 26: by Teresa (last edited May 22, 2013 10:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Teresa Anne wrote: "" but I also thought what happened in Germany was very important to the theme. "

Teresa,
I just happened to see this. No notification. Can you say more about what you mean?"


I thought showing how her being in Berlin during the bombings there, and not just in London, was important to the theme of how with just one different detail in her life -- meeting a different person, for example -- could've put her elsewhere, even on the 'other side,' which in many ways wasn't much different from her experiences in London during the Blitz.


message 27: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Yes. I liked that aspect - that one small thing can make such a difference in a life. Of course that theme ran through the whole book. But I don't get what you mean when you say that her experience in Germany "wasn't much different from her experiences in London during the Blitz."


message 28: by Teresa (last edited May 22, 2013 10:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Teresa Anne wrote: "Yes. I liked that aspect - that one small thing can make such a difference in a life. Of course that theme ran through the whole book. But I don't get what you mean when you say that her experie..."

When she had to fight for survival as the bombs were coming down and afterward, not having much food, etc. Though the outcomes were different (except in one London scenario), she did that both in Berlin and in London.


Teresa I also think the above was another way to show the insanity of war.

And to be clear, I wasn't speaking about the parts with EB and AH. I think Atkinson could've done the same thing about Ursula living in Berlin without that, but without the scenes in the Berg, etc. the idea Ursula has that she could make a big difference wouldn't be there.


message 30: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne It's funny. I completely forgot her fight for survival in Berlin. It's coming back to me now that you mention it. Thank you. Hmmmm.......


message 31: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne And to be clear, I wasn't speaking about the parts with EB and AH. I think Atkinson could've done the same thing about Ursula l..."

You may be right about that. I haven't put much thought in to other ways Ursula could have thought that she could make a difference. It's just that the Berg scenes didn't feel real to me.


message 32: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I didn't read all the comments as I haven't read the book yet but I definitely am looking forward to it once my other reading slows down a little.


message 33: by Vicar (new)

Vicar Sayeedi Funny! :-) Vicar...


message 34: by Liz (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liz I'm so glad to see a review that says this - I feel exactly the same way! I was absolutely in love with this book most of the way through, and then ended up having to read the ending 3x trying to figure out what had happened. I'm still not sure I know.


Wendi I agree with everything Anna and Liz have said. It was interesting and a nice idea, but it feels incomplete somehow.


message 36: by Ann (new)

Ann I listened to the book and had to go find a print copy to see if I had missed something at the end and I hadn't. I also can't figure out what happened.


message 37: by Robyn (last edited Aug 07, 2013 10:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robyn Markow I agree w/you & that's why I also gave this book 4 stars though I loved the premise & much of the writing;it really made you think about your own life & fate & all that deep stuff. I just felt that the ending was a bit of a let-down;after 500+ pages I expected something more dramatic. However, I admire when a writer takes chances like Kate Atkinson did w/this book.


Wendi Well said!


Brooke You completely summed up for I feel about this book.


Karen Canova Just finished the book, feeling stunned and empty. I have a prosaic question (spoiler alert): did Ursula miss her target? Even in Atkinson's surreal world, the ending makes no sense whatsoever -- she saved Teddy due to her missed (or successful?) shot in 1930 but she didn't prevent the war???!!! How nice that Ursula's sweet brother survived but millions of others didn't.


Karen Canova Stacy wrote: "I think that sums it up. I truly enjoyed the book. I did. But I have to agree with you on that unbelievable segment. And the ending, well, I feel like I'm either dense, which I don't think I am, or..."

Thanks, Stacy, I just finished the book and can relate to what you wrote. The ending has me baffled: as I wrote below, I can't tell if Ursula missed her shot or not, and why her specific action resulted in that particular ending??!! But I do agree that 90% of the book is outstanding -- could have been 99% with some editing and a more satisfying ending.


Karen Canova Gaeta1 wrote: "I think she did. But that's just my guess."

Thanks, Gaeta!


Karen Canova Gaeta, I don't know what to think. Why does Teddy survive but the war (presumably) goes on as though Ursula's shot had no impact?? And Nancy survived also, despite the fact that she was killed in Ursula's penultimate life? Nothing makes sense. If the author is trying to make the point that her novel makes no sense because life makes no sense, then why even bother to write at all? If that is Atkinson's premise, I believe she could have tackled such a premise in a more intellectually satisfying way.


message 44: by Anne (last edited Sep 14, 2013 04:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Gaeta1 wrote: "I think she did. But that's just my guess."

Gaeta, you feel that she did prevent the war? Or just Teddy's death?


message 45: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Well, her original idea certainly changed. I think you're right about the weakest part of the story. I think that's part of why there's so much confusion about what happened.


Elaine Very interesting.


Karen Canova Thanks Anne. This discussion is enormously helpful as I come to grips with finishing the book. I enjoyed this review as well: http://www.christopher-priest.co.uk/j...


message 48: by Anne (last edited Sep 14, 2013 06:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Thank you for the link, Karen. Really nice article. I really like the question he poses: "But the paradoxical question arises: does beautiful writing make a well-written novel?"

Something I've wondered about a lot when great writing doesn't necessarily feel like a good read to me. Though Priest has something else in mind.


Karen Canova I also like what he wrote about the author's preoccupation with the domestic rituals at Wolf Corner. It was pretty tedious at times.


message 50: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Agreed!


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