2021 Reading Challenge discussion

Life After Life (Todd Family, #1)
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ARCHIVE 2014 > Life After Life: Final 10 Sections

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message 1: by Kara, TBR Twins (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kara (karaayako) | 3945 comments This thread is to discuss the final 10 sections of Life After Life:

A Lovely Day Tomorrow
A Lovely Day Tomorrow
A Lovely Day Tomorrow
The Land of Begin Again
A Long Hard War
The End of the Beginning
Be Ye Men of Valor
The Broad Sunlit Uplands

Victoria I finished the book yesterday but as the discussion boards seem to be very quiet at the moment (obviously I was a bit too enthusiastic) I might wait until others start commenting before I provide my opinion.

message 3: by Kara, TBR Twins (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kara (karaayako) | 3945 comments Go ahead and start Victoria! There's a few of us (myself included) who read it previously, so we can all chat while others catch up. :)

Victoria Overall I really liked that book and gave it 4 stars, it was not a 5* book for me for a couple of reasons.

Part of my comment regarding the middle sections of the book was that I felt that there was little in terms of balance between the positive and negative aspects of Ursula's life which were erased each time she lived her life over again, it seemed more that bad things were erased and good things were put in its place and I have to say the final 10 chapters did not address this issue for me. At one point I thought the loss of her daughter Frieda (Frieda having never been born as Ursula did not stay and live in Germany) may have been the author's way of showing this but for some reason I couldn't connect with this aspect of the story. I kept remembering Ursula's indifferent attitude towards being a wife and mother in the first place and despite the odd comment in those chapters about her strong feelings for her daughter I didn't feel emotionally drawn to this aspect of the story. I saw Ursula as a woman who did not want to be defined by being a wife or mother so I found it didn't ring true that the daughter would be the element that addressed this balance of positive versus negative.

The other aspect of the story I found slightly unfulfilling were the relationships with her siblings which seemed to be very black and white. She's close with Pamela, Maurice is the one they all dislike, Teddy is the favourite, and Jimmy was just Jimmy (completely unsure what that meant and Jimmy is the one member of the sibling group for whom I didn't get a sense of who his character was) yet in all of her re-incarnations her relationships with her siblings don't change and that was unsatisfactory for me. I would have much preferred it if her re-incarnation helped her and us as readers understand the motivations of her siblings (particularly Maurice) and maybe moved the sibling group into different dynamics between them with each new life lived.

The one part of the book I really liked were the bits in World War Two (although I admit being a big fan of historical fiction from that era [as well as Tudor England]), most interestingly for me was when Ursula and the aforementioned daughter committed suicide in their home in Berlin and the parallel this drew with Ursula dying in a raid in London. This for me shows that War (any war) affects people on both sides of the conflict and regardless of the reasons a war is fought the devastation it leaves for ordinary people is tragic.

Overall I genuinely liked how the book was written and would gladly pick up another of Kate Atkinson's books in the future.

Sarak1207 I was totally fascinated by this book- until the end. I thought Atkinson's descriptions during the war (both in England and in Germany) were very well done and allowed me to more fully appreciate what World War II was like from the point of view of a civilian who was suffering from the consequences of the conflict. I enjoyed Ursula as a main character, once I had read past the early chapters. I loved Izzy, disliked Maurice (who wouldn't?) and frequently thought Sylvia needed to brush up on her mothering skills. I even managed the friendship with Eva Braun, even though that was a stretch. But the last few chapters left me wondering if I missed something in my reading. (I did read this on a Kindle, which I should never do with a book like this. You need to go back and take a second or third look at events. That is very difficult on a Kindle! It's the reason I still love the hard copy of a book) But I digress, I just finished the book, so I haven't really thought enough about it yet, but I'd just love to hear opinions on the last part. I was disappointed, and felt that the book was much weaker for its ending. It felt a little like Atkinson finished it in a hurry. I was left wanting the same sort of fine thorough writing that was present in the rest of the book.

Angelique I finished the book last night. I thought it was quite a good read. I did have some trouble how Ursula got to Germany all of a sudden (bit of a change all of a sudden) and during the last quarter of the book I started wondering how the book was ever going to finish, like how was Ursula ever going to live her life right. Because of that I thought the end was for me a bit of an anti-climax (sp?).

Valerie (nicehotcupoftea) | 150 comments I too seemed to miss how Ursula came to be in Germany with a daughter, Frieda. I went back in the book to try to find the first mention of Frieda but decided I didn't really care because I couldn't relate to this particular Ursula.
I also didn't get much of a feel for Jimmy, I kept forgetting where he fit into the family.

LyndiLea Hardman (LyndiLeaHardman) | 110 comments This part of the book hit me hard and sealed the deal on my love of the story. First, Ursula killing Hitler. I have been waiting for a story to adequately address this situation. I like how Ursula is aware that killing Hitler won't stop WWII that another of his men would have picked up his war cry and carried on. It's easy to kill a man, but hard to kill an idea, even if the idea is wrong, hurtful, and hateful. Second, that there is no such thing as a "perfect" life. Finally Ursula makes it to be an old lady having lived a happy, fruitful, fulfilled life. I was thinking this time will be it, this will be the time she really dies, but then I am thrown for a loop with the final chapter being snow. This made me stop and think for a minute. What is the "perfect" life? What determines a successful life versus and wasted life? What if there is no such thing as a "perfect" life? Maybe life isn't about having the best, brightest, and fanciest. Maybe its about learning to be happy with what we have and making the best of a bad situation. I don't know if that was the intended message but its what I took away from it.

message 9: by Karena (last edited May 12, 2014 05:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karena (karenafagan) It was last year I read this book and it was one of my top favorite books of 2013. I think the best part of the book was, it really could have kept going. Even Kate Atkinson said the great part about Ursula was her immortality (for lack of a better word, since I don't have the link at hand). Another thing I loved was the ability for a do-over. I don't think there is one person who doesn't have something they wished they could do over. Or in another way of thinking, wonder how their live would have worked out if they would have taken a different path so to speak. Not necessarily regrets, just curiosity.

This was my first Atkinson and I'd love to go back and read her backlist.

Claire  (claire6452) | 680 comments Sarak1207, I think you and I must have had the EXACT same reaction to the book, as you stated pretty much everything I was going to say (right down to the kindle issue!)

Overall I liked this book a lot, but I did have a bit of an empty feeling at the end, as though there should have been something more. I know that there really wasn't much more that could have been added, but the ending did seem a bit rushed.

I also felt that Atkinson jumped into some things with too little background, specifically, the existence of Frieda without ever having established a relationship with Jurgen prior (yes, there was a hint of an attraction, but nothing more), and her first friendship with Eva Braun, which just was, rather than being introduced.

I very much liked the idea of second chances, as I know there are quite a few things in my life I'd love to do over. But I think the most important lesson Atkinson, and Ursula, were giving us it to make the most of every moment, and always, ALWAYS choose the right thing, because any decision can be life-altering.

message 11: by Jenn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenn | 280 comments I really liked the book overall and I rated it 4 stars. Some readers above mentioned confusion over the lives when Ursula lived in Germany, but I actually thought those were really well done. Atkinson provided some foreshadowing in previous lives with a teenage Ursula mentioning that she wanted to go abroad. Then in one life she realizes this dream. I really loved that with each new life, Ursula seemed to be more conscious of the lessons learned in her previous lives. This culminated in her decision to take her own life by jumping out the window in order to return and live a life by her own design in which she uses information she has from previous lives to set herself up to be able to kill Hitler. I think the book should have ended there. The last two chapters that followed this did not make sense to me and from other readers' comments, I'm not sure that anyone understood them. So this problem, combined with the slow start and the obnoxious length of "A Long Hard War," are the reasons this wasn't quite a 5-star book for me. Still, I loved the concept and the writing was excellent.

Albany (albanycarmona) I guess I was the only one who rated this book 3 stars. I liked the story but I feel like there were a lot of things that could have been done a bit better, most of which are mentioned in the three threads in this group (once again I agree with Victoria that there could have been some changes in the sibling relationships). The ending was alright but it didn't give me the closure I was expecting to get. Also, anyone else blindsided by the Roland revelation? Not sure how I felt about that one.

message 13: by Andy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andy Myers (andybeau) | 22 comments Teetering on 4 to 5 stars, I tipped it a 5 star rating in the end, mostly because 4.5 wasn't an option.

Though not devoid of low points, I still found so much of the story to be enchanting. Of particular charm was the well painted historical backdrops, WW1 and WW2 especially. I found Ursula's development to be satisfying, particularly as she grew beyond a common "middle child" stereotype. The fluidity of time, that time as a coursing river that can be disturbed, but not entirely altered, was fascinating. Without becoming burdened by overly complex of technical explanations, the time concept brought an almost sci-fi/fantasy edge to the story.

A less desirable plot element, Roland's later inclusion, seemed not to enrich the story, at least not especially. I had a less strong, though similar, reaction to Ursula's prolonged segment in Germany. We weren't given a great deal of time to really know Frieda or Jurgen, but it might have been a pacing issue preventing a more engrossing experience.

I'm willing to look over the above mentioned low points, even considering them with a more open mind. I wonder if they're not in place to remind us of the fluidity of time, that things can progress very differently depending on the circumstances. Though there was a pattern of positive improvement (as far as Ursula is concerned), there was also a tendency for uglier aspects to come to light. An obvious point would the blasé attitude towards suicide. Another was a certain insensitivity, I perceived, in Ursula's attitude towards others, with her becoming slightly more selfish.

5 Stars might be a bit much right now, and I may change that in the future. Still, I thought it was charming, engrossing, though provoking; all things a great book should be.

Reija | 303 comments Well, it has been over week until I finished this and I'm still don't know if I liked or not. The end was too unsettling even if I usually like open ending. Why Ursula was so important person that everything went by her choice? or did she live others life, some versions death (bombs in London) we see other people died way she had died previous lives. And most of all, what was path she had to follow to survive?

I think beginning worked better for me, longer chapters was quite boring because you all time waited when she gonna die. I hated her first husband story, but it was fine because you know we get this do again. I hate war, so I wouldn't mind if she would go something like Children's book kind of war but actually it was pretty interesting.

One thing, she told her psychiarist she has visions, but it was still quite impressing that she keps take so different choices to make different path. I wouldn't think it would be so easy.

Oh, still. Wonderful idea, something that many sci-fi writers would have take a note, but not quite good as she could write, it would be so much more as storywise. I think.

Myles (myles_76) | 32 comments What's interesting about this book, is that it never really ended. Her life never ends, it just restarts in perpetuity. Which leaves me with a bit of an empty feeling. What value does her life have, if she can just restart it at any point? The more she remembers from previous lives, the less important her current life is. If she doesn't like whats happening she just starts a new one, with no consequences. If she relived her life without knowing what happens, then each new life has value.

It's like playing a video game. You don't like where something is going, you just hit the reset button. This whole aspect leaves me a bit disappointed, because I'd like to see more value in life.

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