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Life After Life: A Novel Hardcover – April 2, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1st edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316176486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316176484
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,831 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: Every time Ursula Todd dies, she is born again. Each successive life is an iteration on the last, and we see how Ursula's choices affect her, those around her, and--so boldly--the fate of the 20th-century world. Most impressive is how Kate Atkinson keeps the complexity of her postmodern plotting so nimble. Life After Life approaches the universe in both the micro- and macro sense, balancing the interior lives of Ursula's friends and family with the weight of two World Wars. (How many writers can make domestic drama as compelling as the London Blitz?) Life After Life is an extraordinary feat of narrative ambition, an audacious genre-bender, and a work of literary genius. --Kevin Nguyen

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In a radical departure from her Jackson Brodie mystery series, Atkinson delivers a wildly inventive novel about Ursula Todd, born in 1910 and doomed to die and be reborn over and over again. She drowns, falls off a roof, and is beaten to death by an abusive husband but is always reborn back into the same loving family, sometimes with the knowledge that allows her to escape past poor decisions, sometimes not. As Atkinson subtly delineates all the pathways a life or a country might take, she also delivers a harrowing set piece on the Blitz as Ursula, working as a warden on a rescue team, encounters horrifying tableaux encompassing mangled bodies and whole families covered in ash, preserved just like the victims of Pompeii. Alternately mournful and celebratory, deeply empathic and scathingly funny, Atkinson shows what it is like to face the horrors of war and yet still find the determination to go on, with her wholly British characters often reducing the Third Reich to “a fuss.” From her deeply human characters to her comical dialogue to her meticulous plotting, Atkinson is working at the very top of her game. An audacious, thought-provoking novel from one of our most talented writers. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Atkinson’s publisher is pulling out all the stops in marketing her latest, which will no doubt draw in many new readers in addition to her Jackson Brodie fans. --Joanne Wilkinson

More About the Author

Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award. She has been a critically acclaimed, bestselling author ever since, with over one million copies of her books in print in the United States.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?, and Started Early, Took My Dog. Case Histories, which introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, was made into a television series starring Jason Isaacs.

Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh.



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Customer Reviews

I like the writing style, but I found the book too confusing.
Gayle Riggs
Towards the end I started reading very fast because I hoped that I was wrong about the book and story really going nowhere.
bbq
There was some interesting character development, but in the end, I did not feel very connected to the main character.
Readinggal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1,230 of 1,313 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn A. Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Last evening I finished Kate Atkinson's newest novel, LIFE AFTER LIFE, after two days straight of doing little else but reading it compulsively. I felt so utterly besotted by every 527 pages of it, that rather than close the book and put it on my bookshelf, I returned to the first pages and began reading the book all over again. Oh, what an extraordinary reading experience it is!

The cover blurb provides a fair plot summary of the novel and I am sure other reviewers will rehash it over and over again as well, so I will spare you a plot summary here. Rather I want to remark on what makes this novel so brilliant for me - and it is not only the deep underlying philosophical and religious themes which will surely open wide this book to many interpretations - but its beautiful characters who break all stereotypes and its structure which is a masterpiece of narrative architecture.

Yes, many themes do permeate the story of Ursula Todd - everything from Plato's "Everything changes and nothing remains still," Buddhist principles of fate and reincarnation, Nietzsche's "amor fati" (Love of Fate), to Jungian explanations of "déjà vu," "synchronicity" and "collective unconsciousness," and that's just to name a few - but what really makes this novel stand out, what really makes it so amazing is how lightly, even unassumingly, and yet so impeccably Kate Atkinson treats such sophisticated and intellectual subject matter.

LIFE AFTER LIFE is the enthralling story of Ursula Todd, born to Hugh and Sylvie Todd in their home at Fox Corner, England on a bitterly cold, snowy night in February 1910. Ursula Todd also died on that very night before she could even draw her first breath.
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910 of 1,009 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a tricky book to review: easy to enjoy, but curiously empty. Its five hundred pages flew by like the wind; this is the kind of writing I have been reading since childhood, literary comfort food. As a British expatriate, it feels very close to home: these are my kind of people leading lives I understand, if not always in actuality then at least from books. I felt it was all rather vapid at first, but I became increasingly impressed with Atkinson's ingenuity as I read on; a veteran puzzler myself, I raise my hat to anyone who can do something this clever. But to what end? I look to a novel of this scale to do more than merely keep me amused. Yet there was never a time in the book when I felt truly touched or even much surprised. The total, I felt, was less than the sum of its many parts. Much less.

But I had better explain. Atkinson's conceit here is that her heroine, Ursula Todd, is immune from death, at least in a literary sense. If she dies at the end of one chapter, the author simply winds back the clock and starts again. So in the earliest chapter, dated February 1910, a baby is born with the cord twisted around her neck, dead. In the next, the scene is repeated, but the doctor makes it through the snow in time, and the child is saved. Some chapters later, however, a cat settles in the baby's cradle, smothering her. And so on. It is like a maze; if you come to a dead end, you retrace your steps a little and try a different route.

The plethora of short chapters and frequent restarts soon became tedious. But then the novel opened out in the interwar years and especially in some gripping scenes set in the London Blitz, as we spent more time with Ursula as a young woman and adult.
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205 of 230 people found the following review helpful By Diana on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I think Atkinson's novel, Behind The Scenes at the Museum, is one of the finest novel's I've read. I also liked Human Croquet.

So I was excited to see this book had come out and bought the hard cover.

Pros:

It is clearly a book written by a novelist at the peak of her art: the writing is sure and often lush, she knows when to stop, when to move on. You certainly feel you are in the hands of a pro. THe voice is sure and often funny, with a wry intelligent humor.
She vividly brought the past to life especially the WWII era,particularly in the recurring scene of the bombed out house she either dies in or observes, depending on her life.
Some parts of the book were very powerful, again the above scenes - I have never quite felt the daily terror of London during the Blitz as I did here.
The philosophical question is interesting--both the 'what if' and the entire concept of time and the meaning of our life/lives.

Cons:
I'll address these in no order especially.
The biggest con is that though the philosophical question is interesting, it feels ultimately to be an exercise in philosophy - and a not very deep one - as opposed to a novel justifying so many pages. It's something that perhaps would feel profound if you were in a college dorm late at night drinking and chatting, and had just discovered Plato and Nietsche. "Oh wow, like maybe time isn't linear or circular!" "Wow, I mean what if you could live your life again and again? I mean, maybe our lives are both fate *and* luck, both ephemeral *and* eternal! Oh wow. Hey, pass me the wine."

A few little things: It was very annoying how many characters commented on Ursula's intelligence and brilliance. I stopped counting after a while. I also don't see the point.
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