129. Life After Life- Kate Atkinson

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Title: Life After Life

Author: Kate Atkinson

Rating: ★★★★

On the Shelves: Fiction> Historical Fiction/Paranormal

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves (Goodreads 2014)

When I was born, 2 months early, I spent the first two months of my life living in an incubator, constantly holding my breath (scaring the nurses), and needing various treatments due to being so small (I weighed 3IB 9oz, or in American- 1kg 615.9g – I was very, very small). If alternate universes do exist, there are probably a very good number of them where I did not survive the first two months of my life, or maybe even the pregnancy.

Throughout childhood I had the usual illnesses, Chicken Pox (twice, would you believe), Measles, even Pneumonia- again, all three of which probably killed me off in another universe. I used to do sports, which could have resulted in injury. I fell over and tripped numerous times, which could have led me to serious accidents- I fell off a horse at 13 and landed on my neck, I fell off a trampoline at 15 and landed, again, on my neck. In other words, other!Andie’s probably hate me for still being alive.

In Kate Atkinson’s book Life After Life, this is exactly what Ursula goes through, numerous times, throughout the book- except little by little, she actually recalls certain incidents which have killed her in a previous life- not so much in detail but little niggling feelings, like “okay…that roof looks really slippery- I won’t climb out and get my doll just yet”, whereas in the previous chapter, she had and “darkness fell” (you will get sick of that phrase, I’ll be honest).

Ursula lives throughout two world wars, during the course of this book, in a variety of ways, and you see how they both effect her and her family, both in life and death. If nothing else this book does make you think about how much you take for granted. I’m not really a fan of “groundhog day” stories, because they tend to get a little too repetitive for me, but I really enjoyed Life After Life and couldn’t put it down, I had to find out how Ursula “corrected” the previous chapter, and find out all that was going on with her family.

I recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction, family drama and maybe even the idea of alternate universes.

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7 thoughts on “129. Life After Life- Kate Atkinson

  1. I’m so with you on this one. I despise Groundhog Day type stories. Hated the movie. Hate shows that follow suit. But this book…man, I just HAD to know how it ends. I’m so glad you liked it. Great review!!

    • thebookheap says:

      thanks Annette! Lovely to see you on here again, I’ve missed you!

      Something about the characters and the environment just drew me in and made me overlook my annoyance of the groundhog type stories

  2. The idea of this story sounds like a good one, but I usually don’t like books set during the first two world wars and this one has them both. Wow, it sure sounds like you were lucky. (or not depending upon how you look at it)

    • thebookheap says:

      hahaha I think I take after my mum (who is very ill and got told she’d not live past ’94…)…we don’t like statistics and like to prove them wrong.

      It’s strange, you might actually like this one despite it running through the two wars- you spend most of the book seeing it through ursula’s eyes, so you don’t see a lot of warfare as she stays home throughout them.

  3. I bought a copy of this when it first came out, then ended up giving it away without ever having read it… but I know I really should, and I think your review has convinced me to make it sooner rather than later!

    • thebookheap says:

      awh brilliant! 😀 it is one of those books. I bought it like…6 months back and it has just been sitting on my shelves, the size of it is quite daunting. The chapters are short though so you get through it quickly 🙂

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