Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Thoughts - Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
published 4/31/13
audiobook read by Fenella Woolgar

Synopsis from publisher -

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? 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?

My thoughts -

First off, why in the world did I think I didn't like Kate Atkinson's work? I know I've tried to read a novel of hers in the past, and for some reason didn't care for it - now I think I definitely have to go back and try again. Life After Life is absolutely one of the more original and absorbing novels I've read in a very long time.

You've all heard the premise, right? And you know that Atkinson repeats the beginnings of Ursula's life over and over and over again. I have a feeling some readers will find this annoying, but I found just enough changing each time - a different narrative perspective, perhaps, or new details divulged - that I didn't get fatigued by the repetition.

I think that slight change is the key - every version of Ursula's life changes in some little way, but it brings about an completely different ending. The decision to walk home a different way - a chance meeting of a man on the street - going back for a dog during a bombing attack - all of these small decisions make, literally, a life or death difference, and that's what makes Ursula's story so compelling.

Atkinson tackles a multitude of difficult subjects, which is my one slight quibble with the novel - it seemed a little like the author was trying to tackle every single controversial issue she could think of all at once. However, despite the issue overload, she does handle each and every one of them with a great deal of thought and care, and leaves the reader with much to ponder each time.

I think if you can get through the first 100 pages or so, you will fall into the rhythm and flow of the novel, and will be hooked. For the reader with a bit of perseverance, I think this novel more than rewards. Definitely recommended.

Finished - 7/19/13
Source -
MPAA rating - R for lots of adult situations and violence
My rating - 9/10


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Elizabeth, I am one of those who like you, had never read Atkinson. I think I started an audio book once and wasn't liking it so never tried again. I think I am going to start with this one.

Thanks for your great review.

Mystica said...

Is this something like rebirth? sounds intriguing.

Kristina Simon said...

That sounds like a fantastic read. Thanks for posting!

TipiTopi said...

The book is on my waiting list, I'm looking forward to read it. Great review!

Anna said...

I'm dying to read this book! My husband bought it for me for Mother's Day, and I have it set aside to read on my vacation in Sept. I don't know if I can wait that long, though. ;)

Andi said...

You had better luck with this one than I did, but I definitely agree about that first 100 pages being the test. If you can get through that, you're home free. And the writing was stellar, I was just annoyed by the ambiguity.

Heather said...

I saw this book floating around the bookish community at the beginning of August, and when I was in the bookstore I kept picking it up and putting it back down. I think I will pick it up from the library and try the first 100 pages like you recommended.