Friday, 24 May 2013

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
ISBN UK - 9780385618670
          US -  9780316176484
Publisher UK - Doubleday
                US - Reagan Arthur Books
Release date UK - March 14th 2013
                     US - April  2nd 2013
Find - Book Depository/Goodreads

Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd dies on a snowy night in 1910. And so the story begins... Ursula is destined to be born, live and die many, many times in many varying ways. Each time she lives a little bit differently and a little bit longer. In some lives she dies as a child, some as an adult, whilst on holiday or working as an air raid warden or even simply rescuing a dog. When approaching what might have been her death in a different life she experiences deja vu, a sense of urgency that maybe she's done this before and something's not quite right and though she doesn't know why, somethings needs to be done differently.

Behind the scenes are Ursula's family - parents, brothers, sisters and an outrageous aunt - who are all caught up in the constant circle of living and dying. Her parents (especially her mother) know there's something different about Ursula and even send her to a psychiatrist after one incident in which she tries to alter history. Her younger brother Teddy is also caught up in the living/dying cycle, sometimes dying young, or as an adult. My favorite members of the family were solid, dependable Pamela and the completely irreverent Aunt Izzie who was a law unto herself, especially given the time period.

Ultimately, the aim of the story appears to be whether Ursula succeeds or not in her goal of killing Hitler as is seen in the prologue, and to see how or if the world changes by altering things with the killing of a major historical figure. I don't read much about World War II - fiction or non-fiction - but Kate Atkinson's attention to detail is impeccable, it definitely kept me turning the pages as the chapters become longer when Ursula stays alive for longer periods after she changes her choices in each life and we become more immersed in wartime London (or Germany/Austria). I had a couple of niggles about Life After Life, firstly I didn't really like the inclusion of Eva Braun as a character, as a friend of Ursula's and felt that her story went on a bit too long for someone who wasn't a major character. The second niggle was the ending as it just... ended! I was left a bit adrift and wondering if I'd missed something, skipped a few pages or something but my sister said something along the same lines so definitely not just me!

I'm a huge fan of Kate Atkinson's work and have been since I read Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Human Croquet and Not The End Of The World. Most people though know her for her Jackson Brodie detective books, and the television adaptations starring the rather lovely Jason Isaacs as Jackson! Life After Life is definitely up there with the rest of them and I look forward to seeing what Ms Atkinson comes up with next.


  1. Oh no, the ending! Horrible! I can't stand it when books just end.. But I do like the cover and the concept is fascinating, so I might try it. Great review and thanks for bringing this one to my attention :)


    1. Hope you do read it, definitely worth doing so! Looking forward to hearing what you think :)

  2. I adore Kate Atkinson and have also read all her early books. I haven't had time to squeeze this one in, but I'm dying to. Too bad about the ending!


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