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Life After Life Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Apr 2 2013
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A New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the 2013 Costa Book Award
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction
"There aren't enough breathless adjectives to describe Life After Life: Dazzling, witty, moving, joyful, mournful, profound. Wildly inventive, deeply felt. Hilarious. Humane. Simply put: it's one of the best novels I've read this century." —Gillian Flynn, bestselling author of Gone Girl and Sharp Objects
"Think of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife or David Nicholls' One Day. . . . [or] Martin Amis' Times Arrow. . . . Life After Life should have the popular success of the former and deserves to win prizes, too. Atkinson has done something highly unusual, boldly beginning afresh. . . . [Atkinson] sets herself an audacious premise and the most ambitious sweep of our modern history, and absolutely nails it on every count. It both pleases the crowd and feeds the soul, in the spirit of the grand masters." —The Times (UK)
"In a lesser writer's hands, a novel that revisits its main character's birth 12 times would likely be tiresome, but each revision is fresh, often funny, and filled with new life in more ways than one. Atkinson tackles a mystical theme in Life After Life, but she is at heart a realist." —Maclean’s
"Merging family saga with a fluid sense of time and an extraordinarily vivid sense of history at its most human level. A dizzying and dazzling tour de force." —Daily Mail (UK)
"Brilliant . . . more than just a terrific story about the impact of one existence on another. Atkinson can knock the socks off any rival in terms of skill and style. . . . The tour de force of the book, though, is Atkinson's recreation of the Blitz . . . unputdownable." —Evening Standard (UK)
"Startlingly brilliant . . . endlessly rich." —Reader's Digest
"Life After Life is to be applauded for its inventiveness, and for reminding us of lives vanished without trace or memory in the waste and monstrosity of war." —Literary Review
"Kate Atkinson's new novel is a box of delights. Ingenious in construction, indefatigably entertaining, it grips the reader's imagination on the first page and never lets go. If you wish to be moved and astonished, read it. And if you want to give a dazzling present, buy it for your friends." —Hilary Mantel, award-winning author of Wolf Hall
"At heart this is a war story . . . and in its focus on the women and civilians usually overlooked or downplayed, it gives the Blitz its full measure of terror. . . . [Atkinson's] found an inventive way to make both the war's toll and the pull of alternate history, of darkness avoided or diminished, fresh." —Publishers Weekly
"Provocative, entertaining and beautifully written." —Kirkus Reviews
"Atkinson’s world is cruelly arbitrary yet also exultantly resurgent. . . . Atkinson packs a huge emotional punch with fluency of language and poetical leitmotifs from Donne to Keats. As with Martin Amis' Time’s Arrow and Ian McEwan's Atonement, she explores the kaleidoscopic paradoxes of 'what if'." —The Telegraph (UK)
"Much of the (very considerable) pleasure of this almost deliriously inventive, sharply imagined and ultimately affecting novel lies in the almost spookily vivid atmosphere and pathos that Atkinson manages to extract from all this Groundhog Day repetition. . . . Atkinson's knack for retelling—what to repeat, what to change, what to leave out—is satisfyingly faultless. Most of all, though, there's an odd exhilaration in the sheer number and the build-up. . . . Atkinson has written something that amounts to so much more than the sum of its (very many) parts." —The Guardian (UK)
"Life After Life is ultimately centered on the brutal British experience of World War II, with characters caught in the blitz and Ursula joining a rescue unit for injured civilians. As powerful as the rest of Life After Life is, its lengthy evocation of this nightmare is gutsy and deeply disturbing, just as the author intends it to be." —The New York Times
"It takes a brilliant author to keep things interesting while telling the same story over and over. . . . [Atkinson] goes deep into the minds of her characters, while creating readable, intelligent and quirky books. . . . [Atkinson's novels] are thought-provoking and filled with complex characters, classical references and subtle hints. Her latest, Life After Life, is all of that. . . . Atkinson's rendering of the war is vivid, heartbreaking and staggering. . . . [A] brilliant novel, written in a lighthearted style, but with great depth." —The Vancouver Sun
"There's a bit of Edward Gorey-esque glee in the way Kate Atkinson keeps knocking off her main character in Life After Life. And yet, she manages to invest these repeated deaths with poetry and emotion. . . . [An] ingenious narrative conceit. . . . with Life After Life, Atkinson has crafted a narrative that pushes us to think about our own choices. . . . Along the way, there is a delight in the essence of this unusual fiction." —Los Angeles Times
"Atkinson is a master, weaving together the many strands of the story, making each narrative as compelling as the last. The tale is enriched with literary references and philosophies introduced by the characters in easily digestible forms." —Chatelaine
"It is in [the Todds'] poignant constancy that Atkinson excels at deploying her sharp wit, her keen grasp of character and her mastery of narrative irony. . . . If you could go back immediately and read a dazzling, intricate and entertaining novel a second time to catch some of the storytelling magic you missed the first, would you? If the book is Atkinson's Life After Life, then why not?" —San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
KATE ATKINSON won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and has been a critically acclaimed international author ever since. Her most recent four bestsellers featured the former private detective Jackson Brodie: Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog. She was appointed an MBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Ursula Todd is born on a February morning in 1910. The cord wrapped tightly around her neck ends her before she begins.
Ursula Todd is born on a February morning in 1910. The cord, though wrapped tightly, is cut in time to save her life which, this time, lasts a little longer.
The date of her birth never changes, but the date of her death is different almost every time.
This book is about more than reincarnation, though: it's about the complicated beauty of family. It's about selflessness, and the gradual awakening toward a larger purpose. The author does something very subtle, very clever with the reader's emotions. I was halfway through the book before I realized that my feelings of anxiety, frustration, doom and perplexity were not simply an independent response - were in fact engineered by her. By the end, I could only marvel at how deftly she turned me into Ursula Todd herself: I didn't so much identify with her, as I took on her experience as my own.
I am crazy about this book. I was sorry when it ended (or did it?), and will be recommending it to everyone.
Ursula is born…and dies…and is born again. Each life lasts a little longer. With some, we pick up where the previous left off. With others, she has been able to change her course and, possibly, the course of history.
Atkinson uses her unique voice to tell us a story of reincarnation, but not in the usual woo-woo sense. In fact, she does not follow the classic philosophy of reincarnation as the character of Ursula is always reborn at the same point in time as the same person. You know each life will end; you know the next life will show zen-like progression. The difference, however, is that there are times when Ursula can alter an event which will then change the course for that life.
This is no romantic fantasy; some lives are decidedly unpleasant. What the book lacked, for me, is a sense of connection. The one certain element, in real life, is that life will end. Whether there is reincarnation or eternity, we don’t know and it is the not knowing which gives life import and significance. Atkinson has removed that gravitas. While this makes the reading of each life interesting, it does remove some sense of really caring about the fate of the character. What is also missing is any real sense of how Ursula’s life fits in with those around her; how she impacts them, and they her.
That’s not to say, one doesn’t become involved. Absolutely, you do but almost in the way of watching an inevitable accident. In that, it reminded me of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” as one chapter is painfully grim. In another, Ursula commits an act which could have changed world history.Read more ›
The novel features a number of similar, yet different, narratives in which the main character, Ursula, dies during birth, is re-born but survives this time only to die quite young, and so on -- with each timestream growing progressively longer as she avoids making past mistakes the next time around.
The author does a reasonably good job of focussing on different aspects each time through, so that the narratives are not endlessly repetitive (though the "Groundhog Day" conceit does occasionally get a little old during the 470-page novel). The protagonist has been given a subliminal awareness of what has occurred in past lives -- enough to cause her to avoid certain situations or make different life choices, sometimes out of a specific feeling of déjà vu, sometimes from a non-specific sense of fear or dread.
The bulk of Ursula's adult lives takes place during World War II in London. The historic scenarios have been well-researched and fleshed-out by the author -- but sadly, the character development has not been established to a similar depth. While I came to like Ursula, I never really felt as though I got to know her well. Her thoughts, her beliefs, her feelings are never fully explored: it's almost as if she's an observer in her own life.
And the reader gets to know the supporting characters even less. Near the end, a character close to Ursula dies and the depth of her grief is clearly described -- but as we never got to see much interaction between the two, it's hard to feel any real substance of that grief.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Wow – how to classify this book? By now, you’ve either read the book or heard the premise: Ursula dies at birth, is reborn and this time does not die; Ursula drowns at age 4, we... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Debbie Rodgers
This is the first book of Kate Atkinson that I read. Without giving to much info, the first half of the book is quick to get trough, but seems repetitive. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Val
I cannot recommend this book. I felt that the author was trying to be "deep" in how life choices or happenstances can affect our lives, but found it to be plain old... Read morePublished 4 months ago by johann cresswell
Read this book as part of a book club. It was so depressing, I would never read any of her books again.Published 4 months ago by Tiffany Farenik
This could have been an entirely self-indulgent show-off exercise by a writer of substantive abilities. As it turns out, it's not. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Schmadrian
This is a wonderful book. I wasn't familiar with Kate Atkinson and am so glad I discovered her. I would recommend reading this book in paper format as the timeline moves around... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Brilliant. This is the first of her books I have read, and I loved it. Well developed characters, fluid writing, a fascinating premise, and an excellent command of language..... Read morePublished 8 months ago by michael hargreaves
a novel of what might have been - the "trope" employed takes a bit of work on the reader's part. A little laboured, but enjoyable nonethelessPublished 10 months ago by SueH