Life After Life: A Novel (Paperback)
As a fan of Atkinson’s mysteries I was a little hesitant to pick up Life After Life based on the premise that seemed a little sci-fi to me. I shouldn’t have waited. It’s brilliant! As a character asks late in the book “What if we had a chance to do it (life) over again until we get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” That is exactly what the character Ursula Todd gets to do. Because of Atkinson’s keen sense of detail, I didn’t fell bogged down by the shifting lives and dates. On the contrary, I couldn’t wait to see what Ursula would do in the next incarnation to “get it right”. It all begins on a snowy February night in 1910 when Sylvia Todd gives birth to a girl who is still born, only to have the daughter surface on the same date and time to the same family but this time to survive. Her deaths from drowning, falls, influenza, murder and even suicide only serve to give her another chance. Along the way we get to meet her family, colleagues and friends (who sometimes reappear in a future life and sometimes not) but we always know that she has done better. Surrounded by these full blown characters, experiencing both idyllic times (life at Fox Corner) and horrific times (two world wars), falling in and out of love, losing family and friends and sometimes saving them, Ursula might finally get it right. Atkinson’s characterizations, portrayal of changing social mores, and acute use of irony make this hard to accept concept a delight. I couldn’t put it down.— From Janice's Picks
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 dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she?
Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original: this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.
About the Author
"Life After Life is a masterpiece about how even the smallest choices can sometimes change the course of history. It's wise, bittersweet, funny, and unlike anything else you've ever read. Kate Atkinson is one of my all-time favorite novelists, and I believe this is her best book yet."—J. Courtney Sullivan, bestselling author of Maine and Commencement
"[Atkinson's] latest novel, Life After Life, is her very best... A big book that defies logic, chronology and even history in ways that underscore its author's fully untethered imagination... Even without the sleight of hand, Life After Life would be an exceptionally captivating book with an engaging cast of characters... [Atkinson's] own writerly cradle was rocked by a very sure hand indeed."—Janet Maslin, New York Times
"The Blitz segments vibrate with life, as vivid and horrifying as a series of glimpses into a charnel house...The natural exuberance of Atkinson's prose is brought into sharp, precise control. Buried inside Life After Life is the best Blitz novel since Sarah Waters's The Night Watch."—Steve Donoghue, The Washington Post
"[Atkinson] is nothing if not clever...A fine writer...filling the pages with a liveliness and intelligence...Ursula's quest to 'get it right' gradually becomes less important than Atkinson's talent to create such an entertaining and suspenseful story that tells many versions of the history of the 20th century."—Bob Hoover, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Life After Life is a hypnotic dance of causality and chance, in which Ursula makes genuine progress...[Life After Life] displays...trapeze-artist panache, releasing plotlines into the oblivion of one past life only to retrieve them, to the reader's appreciative gasps, in a later one...It's rich in the gravity and texture of reality... Marvelously vibrant...Atkinson makes every one of Ursula's lives, as well as the lives of those she touches, feel inestimably precious."—Laura Miller, Salon
"A densely layered, century-sprawling work that is a formidable bid for the brass ring of the U.K.'s prestigious Man Booker Prize. Life After Life is a drama of failures and providential rebirths...High-concept premise...A deft and convincing portrayal of an English family's evolution across two world wars...Marvelous...Not only does she bring characters to life with enviable ease, she has an almost offhand knack for vivid scene-setting ...Her storytelling prowess is on fullest display in a gorgeous and nerve-racking novella-length chapter set during the Blitz ... It's spellbindingly done."—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"Masterful...Atkinson not only invites readers in, she also asks them to give up their preconceptions of what a novel should be, and instead accept what a novel can be... What impresses me about this flip book of nonstop scenarios - in wartime and peacetime - is not only how absorbing they are, but how brave Atkinson is to have written them. After all, there really isn't much recent precedent for a major, serious yet playfully experimental novel with a female character at its center. Good for her to have given us one; we needed it...She opened her novel outward, letting it breathe unrestricted, all the while creating a strong, inviting draft of something that feels remarkably like life."—Meg Wolitzer, NPR.org
"Gripping and sophisticated...Enthralling...[Atkinson] deftly captures the cruel frailty of life with judicious compassion...No writer alive makes for better company on the page-knowing, funny, and prodigally inventive: Ursula is a magnificent creation, but dozens of finely drawn secondary characters (her bohemian Aunt Izzie alone would make this book worth reading) force her to fight for the spotlight on every page...Unflaggingly curious and unfailingly open-minded, Atkinson is like some great snoop, prowling among life's mysteries, turning the commonplace inside out...Literary and entertaining all at once, Atkinson is a sophisticated artist who also can keep you up well past bedtime, and that double-barreled talent is on display as never before in Life After Life. My first reaction upon finishing it was to imitate the unsinkable Ursula and begin all over again."—Malcolm Jones, The Daily Beast
"Life After Life is dark and funny and suspenseful and sad all at the same time."—Emily Ecton, NPR (Great Reads of 2013)
"It is in the depiction of Ursula's loving yet contentious family that Life After Life truly shines...a dazzling, intricate and entertaining novel."—Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle
"Sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the year. Life After Life is a dazzling juggling act...(by all means, read this book)."—Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
"You can't put down Life After Life until you finish it, and then I suggest you read it a second time."—Bob Hoover, Dallas Morning News
"I cannot recommend this book enough. It's nothing short of a genre-bending masterpiece - thoughtful and compelling, convoluted in plot but clear in resolve. If I had many lifetimes, I would make sure to read Life After Life in each."—Kevin Nguyen, Grantland