Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: March 14, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 3/5


On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, 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 any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.


Clearly, from all the five-star ratings this book has received, I’m definitely in the minority here. I was very close to giving up on this novel, but then decided to read all the way to thirty percent on my Kindle before quitting so that I can say I actually gave it a fair chance. Well, lo and behold! At exactly thirty percent, when I was ready to bid farewell to Life After Life, it got its hooks into me and I couldn’t put it down.

From thirty percent to seventy percent the story intrigued me and I got swept along in Ursula’s multiple attempts at life. Nonetheless, after seventy percent finishing the rest of the book became a struggle again, and because it’s a fairly lengthy novel I was relieved when I finally reached the end. Speaking of which…the ending was rather disappointing and I couldn’t make any sense of it. The prologue was immensely promising and somehow I got it in my head that the rest of the story was meant as a build-up of events leading to that which occurred in the prologue. I was sadly mistaken and when the event, as foreshadowed in the prologue, happened in the story, it didn’t have the same impact as what it did at the very start of the book. That pivotal moment which I was looking forward to, ended up being watered down and rushed.

This is a slow-moving plot which I felt dragged along in a lot of places. The parts I enjoyed the most were those that focused on Ursula’s time in Germany at the start, and during, World War II, and her interactions with and thoughts about Hitler. I liked the family set-up of Ursula’s family, and I started feeling at home at Fox Corner. However, right from the start there is a boatload of characters to keep track of, and many times I got confused by who is who.

Life After Life is not a book I’ll recommend to just anyone because I don’t think it will be everybody’s cup of tea (despite thousands of glowing reviews). It is without a doubt a well-written historical fiction with a very interesting idea at its core that got me thinking. I’m glad I finished it and I might even read another of Atkinson’s books in the future.


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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 she 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.

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