[453]: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Bond Street Books | Hardcover, 544 pages | Published: April 2nd, 2013 | Adult Fiction | Historical | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Ursula Todd died at birth; she strangled from her own umbilical cord.

The next scene played out like the last. Only this time, baby Ursula lived.

Ursula Todd grew up. When she was five, she fell out from the window trying to save her precious doll.

The next scene played out after her birth (she lived).

When she was eight, influenza ravaged much of England. She contacted the disease from Bridget, their servant. She died.

The next scene began again before she got sick.

This time, she knew what to do. She must stay away from Bridget who’d come back from attending the armistice festivities already infected.

She did. But Teddy, the youngest, found his way in Bridget’s room. She had no choice but to fetch him. She contacted the disease.

She died.

The next scene began again before she got sick.

This time, she knew it was Bridget she had to stop. So she tripped her and caused an injury. But an ankle sprain did not stop Bridget from going.

Darkness came for Ursula again.

She died.

And so on…and so forth.

This is Ursula’s life, recycled over and over again. She lived every time she died. And every time she lived, she’d try to prevent things from happening. She’d changed things to dictate the outcome. But for someone who saw the future, her life was far from perfect, nor could she stop the horrors that befall her family.

She didn’t live forever, I don’t think. Because the ending was vague. I’d rather not know, actually. I’d rather draw my own conclusion.

This book is bleak; for every death is difficult to read than the last.

We see her get sexually assaulted, which began the darkest period of her life. In that era, who would want a damaged girl? So she clung to the first man who’d ever shown her affection. A mistake. She died in the hands of an abusive husband.

We also see her amongst Hitler’s people. Which was, quite possibly the second hardest thing I had to read. She had a daughter.

Oh and the things she had to do to save her…

This is about reincarnation, told during the most difficult of times. It’s not for the faint of heart, and not because it’s gruesome (though some scenes were). In a way, Kate Atkinson wrote versions of Ursula’s life. One with varied endings that catered to her readers. Regardless of how it turned out, I was blown away. The research, the thought, the structure of this story took my breath away.

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  • Oh. This is too heartbreaking for me πŸ™ If there had been a perfect boy to save her, but no. She gets abused? πŸ™ I don’t like that either. Sigh. Not for me. But ack. It also sounds all kinds of awesome. But sad. Sniffs. Amazing review Joy. <3

  • This sounds beautiful! But wait, did she have to start every single life over from the beginning? Because wow she dies a lot of times!

    I often see this book at the bookstore! Maybe I’ll try to buy it when it’s on sale or if it’s at the library πŸ˜€ As usual, awesome review Joy! This really made me interested in the book (I avoided it because it was on the shelves in the first place lol)

    • Not from the beginning, just before her recent death.

      I hope you’ll enjoy. πŸ™‚

  • Okay this one was not on my radar but it sounds awfully weird, and awfully unique so obvouisly i’m intrigued!

  • Wow, well this is smth new and definitely intriguing! Adding it, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    • Thanks! I hope you’ll be able to appreciate it, no matter how dark.

  • It sounds really unique and intense. The idea used is original and intriguing I confess and I’m curious to see how the author managed to did it. Because I’m sure it’s not something simple either. thanks for the discovery!

    • Thanks, Melliane. There wasn’t anything Sci-fi about it, to be sure. The author didn’t divulge how Ursula inherited that ability. But it was interesting nonetheless.

  • I’m loving all your photos Joy, they’re so simplistic yet beautiful. And this book sounds astounding. I’ve always wondered about reincarnation – how it would work, what would you do differently if you were in that position. The author seems to paint a very poignant story and I’m so interested in reading it. Adding it straight to the TBR!

    • Thanks, Joy. I try to set them up to match the overall aura of the story. And this book is definitely a noir.

  • Ooh this sounds intense. My kind of read. Good review. I’ll add this one to my TBR.

  • I borrowed this from the library a while back because it was #1 on Amazon and naturally I want in on the story. Wasn’t even able to start it. I like reincarnation stories because I believe it! LOL Some find it silly but it makes sense to me. I think I will revisit this book, things are getting old for me, I need to switch it up.

    • Oh I hear ya. A change of pace might just be what you need if you’re feeling a little run down from your usual fare. πŸ™‚

  • I have a good friend who is always, always telling me I should read Kate Atkinson. This might be too emotionally wrenching for me, but I want to try it!
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

    • No problem, Jen. Your friend may be on to something, because I sure would be reading more from this author for sure. πŸ™‚

  • I have this on my shelf but it’s so HUGE! It will take a great show of courage on my part to approach it but I know I’ll read it eventually! πŸ˜€ Nice review, Joy πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Kiran. It’s definitely not for light reading. It’ll be all worth it in the end, though. πŸ™‚

  • I absolutely LOVE the concept of this book. It sounds like a fascinating read, even if it is a bit sad at times. I really want to get this one now!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • I hope you’ll enjoy, Nicole. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by.

  • It seems like Ursula’s character is doomed no matter what path she chooses, however I really like the premise behind this book. The story is told in a very unique way, and I don’t mind the occasional dark read. It’s also cool how in a way, there’s an ending for everyone.

    Carmel @ Rabid Reads.

    • It was a torturous read at times, but then all you have to keep in mind is that she gets to do it over again. Now the best part about it, even though she’s re-doing the past, Kate somehow made it impossible to be bored. Nor would they feel like it’s a Groundhog Day from hell.

      Give it a chance, Carmel!

  • Thanks for putting this on my radar, it sounds so interesting and unique!

  • Wow Joy this book sounds like something else, as I mentioned before I read one book by Atkinson a few years back and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This book does seem like a really tough read, but I like those books which leave a a great impression with you! Fab review Joy!

    • This was my first Atkinson, and if this book is any indication of the kind of work she’s done in the past, this is definitely not going to be my last. πŸ™‚

      Thanks, Jas!