Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life cover

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson was published in 2013. I haven’t read anything by Atkinson since I slogged to the end of When Will There Be Good News – and really there was no good news at all, I found it very depressing, so I’m a bit late in getting to this one.

One thing you can say for Life After Life is that it is definitely different. The main character Ursula Todd is first born in 1910, but that life doesn’t last long as she is stillborn. Not to worry though as in this book Ursula is reborn again and again, with different outcomes each time, and many different ends to her life.

In fact Ursula is a bit like a cat with nine lives, although I lost count of how many different deaths she suffered. I must admit that I found it all a bit annoying as I was happily getting into yet another of her existences, sometimes featuring bits of a previous life, and sometimes a premonition or feeling of deja vu changing an earlier story – when suddenly she was dead again and it started all over again. I think I prefer fiction to be a bit more straightforward.

I really liked quite a lot of the characters, which is always a plus. One of them says: ‘What if we get a chance to do it all again and again until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?’

Probably not wonderful, because apparently most people just keep repeating the same mistakes throughout their lives.

I just thought that it was a bit of a waste of so many story ideas, but it kept me entertained during the awful wet weather that we’re still suffering here in the east of Scotland.

I think that Atkinson managed to portray London during World War 2 at the height of the Blitz very accurately, going from what I’ve been told by people who witnessed it all first hand anyway, including one man who had been a conscientious objector and ended up driving ambulances through London. The job seemed to consist mainly of gathering up body parts.

As Kate Atkinson lives in Scotland I’m counting this one as my first read for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

12 thoughts on “Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

  1. I tried to read Life After Life when it first came out, but I gave up. I, too, found it annoying and I thought it screamed ‘gimmick’. I don’t like books like that.

  2. I’m glad that you found this a worthwhile read and were able to look beyond the characteristics that were difficult. Now there, I used the word “difficult.” I’m laying that word out there and I don’t mean to. Many people enjoyed this book. For me, I tried, but by page 65, I was tearing my hair out. I hate to put it that bluntly. But the continuous re-routing back to birth and then forward, bit by bit, was more than I wanted to deal with. My loss, I think.

    • Judith,
      I really think that Atkinson must think to herself – what can I do next that will be different from anything else, but different doesn’t necessarily mean better.

  3. I loved this book, but I do know many readers just did not enjoy it or could not finish it. And I can see why. Although so far I only “don’t finish” books that are making me feel very uncomfortable, squeamish.

    • tracybham,
      I very rarely give up on books too and often I’ve been really glad that I read on despite misgivings. But I’m absolutely with you on the squeamish and uncomfortable.

  4. ‘I think I prefer fiction to be a bit more straightforward.’ Me too. I began this and didn’t get very far. I may try it again, because I did actually like When Will There Be Good News, which is really a catalogue of disasters!

    • Margaret,
      Yes, When Will There Be Good News was just too much of a downer to me , especially as I was reading it at a time when lots of people around me were getting bad news in reality. I really needed to be reading something uplifting then.

  5. Happy New Year Katrina, I hope 2016 proves to be a happy, healthy and well read year for you! I really liked this book, but I did listen to it as a book on CD, and I think that somehow made it less complicated, frustrating and easier to grasp as a whole. I do listen to a lot of audio books while I work. I too have slogged my way to the end of books that are just not working for me, maybe have characters I just don’t like, life is too short is it not?!

    • Michelle,
      I hope you have a great 2016 and that your studio/crafting work goes from strength to strength. I thought of you when Corbridge got a mention during the floods but I see you address is ‘upper’ so presumably you stayed dry. I can see that audio books would be ideal for you to listen to while you get on with your work. I so agree with you about life being too short to slog on with books that aren’t doing it for me, I still find it difficult to abandon books, just in case they get better – which is daft!

  6. I loved this book, I think because it was so different. But it did challenge me and I thought she handled some parts of ‘life’ well.

    I have already abandoned a book this year, it felt so liberating!

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