Number of Pages: 544
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Release Date: January 1, 2013
“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.”
This book is unlike any other that I have read before. It’s blend of endless combinations: historical fiction and time travel, light and dark, calm and chaotic, straight forward and bewilderingly open to interpretation. I read Life After Life purely based on a recommendation from someone, and I am so grateful that they told me about it! This novel truly is a fascinating, captivating, and thought-provoking reading experience.
Some of my favorite parts of this novel were when Atkinson was simply discussing the average, everyday lives of the Todd family. All of the members of Ursula’s family have such distinct personalities that it’s hard to imagine they’re all fictional. They seem like they could be based off of real people, and perhaps they are. The characters overall were great, which is sort of rare in a book so driven by plot. Each one has history and depth, and you come to have empathy even for characters who are “bad” people because you can see with clarity that they are so incredibly human.
The cyclical plot structure actually enhanced the character development in this case, particularly in regard to how Ursula gradually realizes what happens when she dies and how she has the potential to change things. The theme of reincarnation is my favorite aspect of this novel, because it’s something that you rarely see in historical fiction novels. It’s challenging enough to write a story based on a historical event in another time period, let alone one that incorporates elements of reincarnation! I loved the anticipation that this plot structure builds, and I give Atkinson all the credit in the world for embarking on such an undertaking of writing Life After Life this way.
That being said, I did have some issues with this novel. The middle third of the book seemed slow, dragged out, and kind of irrelevant. I wish there had been more of an emphasis on Hitler and World War II, because it doesn’t really start to focus on those ideas until about two-thirds or maybe even three-fourths of the way into the book. Because of this the ending sort of seems to come out of nowhere- but trust me, you’ll want to keep reading until the end because it’s SO MIND BLOWING. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days and days after I finished reading it. Honestly, I’m still thinking about it even though I finished it weeks ago.
Overall, despite my few complaints I couldn’t help but love this clever, brilliantly written story. Life After Life is an impressive work that readers will not soon forget.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes!!
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? Are there any other books by Kate Atkinson that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!