- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (January 7, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316176494
- ISBN-13: 978-0316176491
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3,639 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Life After Life: A Novel Paperback – January 7, 2014
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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. But her story does not end there - her death is not an ending but a new beginning, a beginning to another chance at life. And so it goes in Ursula's story of life after many deaths - a loop of lives so to speak, or the continuous circle of destiny, the karmic wheel of fate... life after life, after life.
Early in the novel we recognize Ursula as an "old soul" and in Kate Atkinson's strategy for telling the story of Ursula's multiple lives and deaths, the narrative progression through history will certainly resonant with readers familiar with the themes of déjà vu and reincarnation. Actually, I think every reader will be able to find resonance with this terrifically engaging narrative, regardless of the philosophical or religious subtexts. It is the intricate plotting through actual historical events which takes on an excitingly different cast - not the usual suspense of "What happens next?" but, to quote Ursula's brother Teddy; "What if you had the chance to do it again and again, until you finally got it right? Would you do it?"
This is a superb narrative tactic which leaves out the typically heavy handed authorial exposition of ordinary historical fiction and challenges us, the readers, while reflecting on Ursula's infinite lives, to discover and piece together for ourselves the puzzle of the social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual dynamics that governs all human experience and history.
Ursula is truly a remarkable character of depth whom we take interest in for her own sake as an individual and not for anything she might symbolize as a literary heroine. We are able to connect with her viscerally (and we do many times over). The other primary characters who populate her story are no less remarkable than she. Her family, her friends, her lovers, and even her Zen master-like psychiatrist are all highly believable individuals with whom we can easily identify.
LIFE AFTER LIFE is crafted impeccably with a language rich in stunning metaphors and poetic imagery. Its abundant literary allusions work well in the service of the emotions. At the same time the narrative manages to be unpretentiously intelligent, effortlessly witty, and deeply touching. Each episode in the many lives of Ursula produces an intense and lasting effect for the reader. They are tales of tenderness and poignancy, horror and outrage, pity and fear, laughter and jubilance, sorrow and grief. Few novels succeed in accomplishing as much.
Oh, my dear reading friends, how truly marvelous Kate Atkinson's LIFE AFTER LIFE is! Read this novel, please! I promise you that once you begin reading this book you too will find it difficult to put it down. And once you read it through to the last pages, I'm sure you too will want to turn back to its first pages to rethink the whole novel through again. To be sure, this is a masterpiece which deserves to be read again and again.
The book is full of philosophical questions, but they do not intrude; it works brilliantly as a novel. The narrative carries the reader right along with the strongest of hooks: what will happen next (time)? The descriptions of time and place are haunting, particularly those of World War II London. The characters are rounded, and some engaged at least this reader emotionally. And they are diverse -- Ursula, of course, is not the only one whose life follows a different pattern in her various iterations, and it becomes almost a game to figure out what has changed for which character. The ending is mysterious, but that is appropriate a novel that explores so many possibilities.