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Life After Life (Todd Family, #1)
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2013 Book Discussions > Life After Life - Background And The Author (September 2013)

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message 1: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments This thread is for any discussion of and/or useful links to either the author Kate Atkinson or the historical background to Life After Life.

To start us off, here's a link to Atkinson's official website: http://www.kateatkinson.co.uk/

Also, if anybody uses Pinterest, there is a nice board related to the novel here: http://pinterest.com/whatshalliread/l...


message 2: by Pip (last edited Sep 01, 2013 03:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Has anyone read any other novels by Kate Atkinson? What do you think of her work?

I think I've read all but Emotionally Weird and, although I very much like her distinctive personal style, I can imagine it's something you either love or hate.


Doreen I adore her Jackson Brodie novels, especially "Started Early Took My Dog", which I think is perhaps my favorite detective book...since it is so much more...just excellent fiction writing.


message 4: by Sophia (last edited Sep 01, 2013 03:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I've read Behind The Scenes at the Museum / Human Croquet / Emotionally Weird and Not the End of the World. I liked 'Behind the Scenes' so much that I've read it twice (something I very rarely do!)


message 5: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Sophia wrote: "I've read Behind The Scenes at the Museum / Human Croquet / Emotionally Weird and Not the End of the World. I liked 'Behind the Scenes' so much that I've read it twice (something I very rarely do."

I've also read Behind The Scenes twice, although I am admittedly a compulsive re-reader of books I enjoy!

I think Life After Life is reminiscent of BTSATM style-wise and due to the fact that we are skipping backwards and forwards in time.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I wonder what her theme(s) will be this time?


message 7: by Kai (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kai Coates (southernbohemian) | 24 comments I've read everything except Life After Life and Started Early, Took My Dog so far. She's one of my favorite authors. As much as I like the detective stories, my favorites are her earlier work - especially Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I think is her best book so far. I like her in "quirky" mode more than "detective" mode, I guess. I'm looking forward to Life After Life since it seems to be a return to that type of writing.


Lily (joy1) | 2471 comments Kai wrote: "...I like her in "quirky" mode more than "detective" mode, I guess. I'm looking forward to Life After Life since it seems to be a return to that type of writing...."

LOL! Definitely return to "quirky" mode, imho! (I'm not certain I ever finished Behind the Scenes at the Museum more than enough to be able to discuss it at my f2f book club back in 2000 -- it had been winner of the Whitbread Prize in 1995 and continued to be featured. I am far enough in LAL that I do think I'll complete it.)


message 9: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Welcome to the discussion, Lily, Kai, Sophia and Doreen!

I was wondering, how familiar is everyone with the historical background to the novel? In the UK we have most of the developments and progress of the two world wars fairly hammered into us, but that may not be the case outside Europe.

Do you think it's important to be familiar with the history, or are you happy to take things as they come?


Diane | 35 comments Pip, I don't know how familiar people in the US are concerning WWII, particularly younger people. The English majors I encounter in my classes have surprisingly little historical knowledge, period, something I find troubling. (I acknowledge that this may be just the grumblings of someone growing older by the minute!) Regardless, I think that some knowledge of the second war and the Blitz really enrich the experience of Life after Life.


Diane | 35 comments I've read nearly everything that Atkinson has written. After reading Life after Life, I read Human Croquet at the suggestion of another reader in another group. I was surprised by some startling similarities between the two books--Atkinson introduced some very important themes in Human Croquet. It seems like she wanted to return to these themes nearly fifteen years later, and provide a much more satisfying exploration. (I don't want to spoil Human Croquet for anyone, but I think Atkinson got stuck trying to explain time slippage in HC and ended up providing a pretty mundane conclusion.)


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I think familiarity with the time period adds to the experience of reading the book. I agree with Diane that the general level of historical knowledge in the US varies a lot with age. Again, it may be the grumblings of an older person about "kids today" not knowing enough. But people in this discussion group tend to be readers, and odds are good they have read something (or many things) set in this time period in Britain.


message 13: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Diane wrote: "Pip, I don't know how familiar people in the US are concerning WWII, particularly younger people. The English majors I encounter in my classes have surprisingly little historical knowledge, period,..."

Hi Diane, and welcome to the discussion!

I think I imagined US Americans might be less familiar with the lead-up to the wars in particular, because the US got involved once things were in full swing. You obviously knew a good party when you saw one...

I thought this link from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/ might be of interest to anyone who wants to find out more - there's a lot of info here, but presented in an engaging way. Also, every country writes their own history, and it might be useful to see a Brit-centric telling, which is Kate Atkinson's influence, after all.


message 14: by Lily (last edited Sep 02, 2013 08:38AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2471 comments Certainly what Atkinson writes about the period of the Blitz provides some insightful historic background, including both the nightly devastation and the heroic efforts to protect great architectural treasures like St. Paul Cathedral. A few years ago, Barnes and Noble featured two books in their First Look offering that provided some insights on war and Britain in easy-to-access fictional settings: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake and The House At Riverton by Kate Morton. While pleasant reads and others here may have read them, neither are books I would particularly strongly recommend. But each of them came to mind as I have been reading LaL.

I am curious as to other books readers here may feel did good fictional captures of that period in British history. Among British female authors, I don't off-hand think of anything by Drabble or Murdoch or Fitzgerald or Lessing, but I haven't gone and checked their oeuvres.


Diane | 35 comments Thanks Pip for the useful resource and your comments Casceil. My guess is that a lack of historical perspective may not be limited to US students! I am old enough to have grown up with a dad who fought in the war was well as with grandparents who emigrated from Scotland in the 1920s. I was also lucky enough to have spent a year of my university education at a Scottish university. And, my teaching area is British Lit! All of this has an impact on my reading--as do all of our varied backgrounds. That said, I think readers in this group are more likely than most of the general population to spend some time doing background reading and thinking about historical context when reading and discussing a novel.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Lily, I read a book a few years ago that provided a very interesting look at life in London during the Blitz. It was published as two books, Blackout and All Clear, but the two really are one story. It's science fiction, set in the future, about "historians" who travel to the past to do research, and a few of them get trapped in time and live through part of WWII. I found the descriptions of life in London during that time very interesting. St. Paul's Cathedral was almost like a character in the book.


message 17: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Lily wrote: "Certainly what Atkinson writes about the period of the Blitz provides some insightful historic background, including both the nightly devastation and the heroic efforts to protect great architectur..."

Lily, I'm not sure if you're referring to contemporary writers, modern, or both, but for me The Night Watch by Sarah Waters is excellent on the Blitz and women's roles "fighting on the home front".


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

Pip | 102 comments Casceil wrote: "Lily, I read a book a few years ago that provided a very interesting look at life in London during the Blitz. It was published as two books, Blackout and All Clear, but the two really are one stor..."

They look great Casceil. Added to my to-read list! The author is Connie Willis (I know Lily is a stickler for book and author links!!!)


message 19: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2471 comments Pip wrote: "(I know Lily is a stickler for book and author links!!!) ..."

LOL! Really, mostly when doing nominations!


message 20: by Lily (last edited Sep 02, 2013 09:45AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2471 comments Casceil and Pip -- thanks for the suggestions. Even if they never make my books read, they add to the discussion and background here.


message 21: by Kai (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kai Coates (southernbohemian) | 24 comments American here: Although a history major, I don't recall learning much about the Blitz in school. WWII history curriculum definitely seemed to jump from Depression to Pearl Harbor with only a bit of time spent setting up what was going on in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, I think most of what I know about the Blitz has come from movies and television (Hope and Glory, 1940s House, Land Girls, etc.). One day I'll actually read a book about it - so thank you for the recommendations.


message 22: by Maureen (new)

Maureen (montanamo) | 9 comments Pip wrote: "Welcome to the discussion, Lily, Kai, Sophia and Doreen!

I was wondering, how familiar is everyone with the historical background to the novel? In the UK we have most of the developments and progr..."


While I'm young enough to be a baby boomer, I still think my working knowledge of WWII was enough to get me through. However, while this is still fiction, I was not aware of the suffering and rationing that went on in the UK.


message 23: by Maureen (new)

Maureen (montanamo) | 9 comments For those of you wanting a non fiction, readable history, Rick Atkinson has a trilogy of WWII, written in 3 different theatres of the world.


message 24: by Lily (last edited Sep 02, 2013 10:13AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2471 comments Maureen wrote: "...I was not aware of the suffering and rationing that went on..."

Some of the word pictures reminded me of the news photos we have gotten out of Lebanon (view spoiler)


Ava Catherine | 1 comments Kate Atkinson has become one of my favorite authors lately. I read Life After Life last month and gave it 5 stars, which I rarely do, and I have Human Croquet lined up to read next.

I do have an extensive background knowledge of WWII, which I think made reading the book more enjoyable and a richer experience. However, I think a fairly good working knowledge of the basics will get the reader through the historical aspects since Atkinson provides a good historical context.

My tip is to read the book as quickly as possible because it is so easy to forget the plot lines if you draw the reading out over several days or weeks. I read the book in two days because it was so riveting and because I did not want to loose the thread of the story.


message 26: by Pip (last edited Sep 02, 2013 01:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Welcome to everyone I haven't welcomed yet, and welcome in advance to any who join in after this post :-)

Interesting to hear that some of you have already finished the novel, and that Connie recommends reading it fairly rapidly.

Tomorrow, I'll create all the section threads so people can contribute to the parts they want, when they want, rather than setting a schedule as such. I think this is going to be one of those novels that keeps you thinking long after the final page.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments It was a fascinating read. The WWI through WWII is one of the substantive areas about which I have read a lot of fiction and non-fiction and which has its own shelf in my "keepers" library. I do not remember what I was taught in school about WWI and WWII. But those of us who are children of veterans of WWII had some exposure to it. I have traveled extensively in Europe and the UK and focused on WWII-related sites and tours, including the Hitler walk in Munich (twice), Dachau in Barvaria, Auschwitz in Poland, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, many WWII cemetaries (Tunisia and Luxemburg, among others), the Jewish museum in Prague and other cities, and many sites in London. I agree with Casceil that the Connie Willis books were amazing on the Blitz. On the non-fiction side, I found Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in tts Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson to be excellent on the tension between the US and UK with respect to the war.


message 28: by Peter (last edited Sep 07, 2013 07:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments This month's Locus notes that film rights to Life After Life were optioned by Lionsgate. Not that this necessarily means anything (aside from a little cash for the author) since lots more books are optioned for movies than are made into them.


message 29: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Thank you to Ben for the following link:


Ben wrote: "http://writerandcritic.podbean.com/20... decentish podcast talking about the book for about 45 min or so."


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

Pip | 102 comments Peter wrote: "This month's Locus notes that film rights to Life After Life were optioned by Lionsgate. Not that this necessarily means anything (aside from a little cash for the author) since lots more books ar..."

I think, treated in the right way, this could make an excellent film. I find Atkinson's work generally very cinematographic, maybe due to her strong characterisation.


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

Pip | 102 comments How is everybody getting on with Life After Life? We are only half way through the month, so please don't hesitate to post your thoughts when you finish each section! Don't feel put off by the number of posts already made: many people had already read the novel - they're not necessarily super-human readers (though doubtless there are a couple of those here too!)

Looking forward to hearing what you think :-)


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
As the month draws to a close, I would like to thank Pip for leading this discussion. She did a stellar job. The discussion has been quite lively and very enjoyable. Thanks, Pip!


message 33: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2471 comments Casceil wrote: "As the month draws to a close, I would like to thank Pip for leading this discussion. She did a stellar job. The discussion has been quite lively and very enjoyable. Thanks, Pip!"

I'll second that -- and thanks to all who participated. It really makes it fun and rich to have multiple voices and views.


message 34: by Pip (last edited Oct 01, 2013 03:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 102 comments Thank you so much for your comments Casceil and Lily, and for your support throughout the read! I've enjoyed moderating this novel very much - it was my first attempt and I'd love to give it another go sometime (over and over again until I finally get it right....?!)
To be honest, the wonderful contributors have made life very easy for me! I hope that everyone has got as much out of the discussion as I have.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments Kate Atkinson's next novel, due out May 5, 2015, is described as a "follow-up" to LaL and to focus on Teddy. It is called A God in Ruins. It is available for pre-order from Amazon, but, as of now, only in Kindle and Audio.


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