In 1910, Ursula Todd is born during a snowstorm in England, but two parallel scenarios occur - in one, she dies immediately. In the other, she lives to tell the tale. As the possibility of having a second chance at life opens up, the novel unfolds, following Ursula as she lives through the events of the twentieth century again and again.
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
About the Author
Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.
She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.
Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.
When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who also made a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.
Kate was awarded an MBE in the Queen's 2011 Birthday Honours, for services to literature.
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Comments about Life After Life:
Life After Life is a book of the Todd Family by award-winning British author, Kate Atkinson. Ursula Todd is born during a snowstorm on the night of 11th February, 1910. She does this again and again, and this fact (amongst others) remains constant throughout the telling of Ursula's lives, but, of course, there are also differences.
When, seemingly through chance, she does survive her birth, and the trials and potentially fatal mishaps that plague her childhood, Ursula's lives revolve around the family that inhabits Fox Corner, parents, siblings, a rather wild paternal aunt who visits, neighbours and friends.
As an adult, Ursula's life, along with those around her, is profoundly affected by war. Her favourite brother, Teddy loses his life when he is shot down over Berlin. But is there something she can do to stop seemingly inevitable events from occurring?
What a talented author Kate Atkinson is! She explores the idea that one might be able to change history, given enough chances, and does so in a familiar setting, with characters that easily find their way into the reader's heart (well, except for Maurice, that is). Add to that the interesting perspectives of certain well-known events: the London Blitz from the perspective of an Air Raid Precautions warden; the bombing of Berlin from the point of view of the German common people.
Atkinson's depth of research is apparent in every chapter. Each of Ursula's incarnations reveals a little more of the family, their history and character, as well as historic events like the influenza epidemic of 1918. From a literary perspective, the use of multiple incarnations is a novel device that allows her to try out a multitude of different life events with just one character.
While this is nothing like her Jackson Brodie books, fans of her work will not be disappointed. Luckily, they will be able to extend the pleasure (and get another dose of the Todd family and Fox Corner) in the companion volume, A god In Ruins. Another brilliant offering from this exceptional author.
Comments about Life After Life:
Wow! What an amazingly and cleverly written book. This chronicles the many lives of one character - Ursula. She dies many times throughout the book and each time the story begins again with scenes that have already transpired but then take a different path due to a different decision in that scene. It covers both World Wars with fascinating alternatives as to what path Ursula's life may have taken. I can't wait to share this book with friends so I can discuss it with them.
Comments about Life After Life:
As the description above suggests, this wonderful book starts as though it is going to be about people getting second chances at life. First, a baby girl dies for want of scissors to cut the umbilical cord. Alternatively, the baby lives because scissors are available.
Four years later, the little girl drowns at the seaside. Then alternatively, she is rescued just in time.
A year later, she falls off a roof, while trying to rescue a doll, and dies. In the second version, her sister successfully rescues the doll and everyone lives.
But just when you think you understand what the author is about, the eight year girl catches Spanish flu from a servant who went to London and dies. This time there are four alternative (or perhaps parallel) versions in which it becomes apparent that the child is beginning to have premonitions of disaster and takes action to avert it. Three times she is unsuccessful and dies, the fourth time she is dramatically and dangerously successful and lives.
So, what are we to make of this awareness that she describes as "memories (that) seemed like a cascade of echoes"?
Is it her imagination or is she mentally ill ( as her parents think when they send her to a psychiatrist )?
Or is it a neurological problem which leads her to think she is repeating experiences?
Is it a story about reincarnation or rather being reborn and living life again with different results?
Is it about parallel multi-universes where all possibilities are played out?
As she grows to adulthood and her awareness sharpens, she even starts to wonder whether, if she deliberately took action to end her life would she come back again to enact an alternative version.
There are many more cascading versions of her life to enjoy in this very intelligent book which really needs to be read several times to enjoy all its subtleties. One professional reviewer, rather unfairly I thought said the book could be read as one about writing (very fashionable) and about how the author, who holds all the cards, can manipulate the characters.
In my view, it is up to each reader to decide what the author is trying to tell us.
"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 "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,no1 New York Times author of Gone Girl, and Sharp Objects "Truly brilliant...Think of Audrey Niffenegger's The TimeTraveler's Wife or David Nicholl's One Day...[or] Martin Amis's Times Arrow, his rewinding of the Holocaust that was shortlisted for the Booker. Life After Life should have the popular success of the former and deserves to win prizes, too. It has that kind of thrill to it, of an already much-loved novelist taking a leap, and breaking through to the next level...This is a rare book that you want, Ursula-like, to start again the minute you have finished." -- Helen Rumbelow The Times "What makes Atkinson an exceptional writer - and this is her most ambitious and most gripping work to date - is that she does so with an emotional delicacy and understanding that transcend experiment or playfulness. Life After Life gives us a heroine whose fictional underpinning is permanently exposed, whose artificial status is never in doubt; and yet one who feels painfully, horribly real to us." -- Alex Clark Guardian "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." -- Amber Pearson Daily Mail
Number Of Pages: 640
Published: 3rd February 2014
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.0 x 3.5
Weight (kg): 0.44
Edition Number: 1