«Life after Life», the winner of the Goodreads Choice Award in 2013, is a mesmerizing historical fiction with the element of time-traveling. It was a perfect read for the colder days, which transported me to England during the First and Second World Wars, where we followed the Todd family and discovered how different choices, little missteps, and decisions could affect the life course in very drastic ways.
Ursula Todd was born on February 11th, 1910, and she died on that same night. However, under different circumstances, Ursula Todd was born on February 11th, 1910 and she lived.
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, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
I first heard about this book from Emily @BookswithEmilyFox, one of my favorite Booktubers, whose tastes in books are so similar to mine. When I heard how much she loved this book with the concept of reliving one’s life over and over again, I had to get my hands on a copy of it. As I was browsing my local bookstore (as one does), I spotted a beautiful white edition of «Life after Life» with little fox and a little hare, and couldn’t resist the pull to purchase it for myself.
This book sat on my shelves for a couple of months and I finally felt like diving into the world of the war-time England, choosing it for my first Winter Magical Readathon prompt.
Would have I preferred a lighter and quicker book for the first prompt of the Readathon?
But would I have missed an amazing story set during the war-time England?
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – Honestly, I think this is a phenomenal book with the most elaborate plot and the cast of characters. Kate Atkinson put so much work into this story, crafting it from the very beginning, inventing all the possible ways it could have ended, and starting it again. This book felt like it could have been 10, 15, 20! separate stories, but Kate Atkinson wove them together masterfully, giving purpose to each and every event.
Ursula Todd is a special child. She died on the night of her birth, but she also lived that night to die again when she was little. However, that death was also avoided in a different life, just for another one to come, and be avoided in the future lives.
«Life after Life» created this paradox between life and death, as Ursula lived longer and longer, altering the course of her life and the life of people around her.
2 – «Life after Life» is a slow-burning story of love, revenge, fate, and second chances, that has to be enjoyed slowly and cannot be rushed through. This is a story you’re supposed to relish with great patience, and not expect any fast-paced plot development. The writing style only adds to the lush feeling of this book, as the author carefully picked up her words to resonate with that moment in our history, but also with the background of each character.
3 – As complicated as the plot sounds, Kate Atkinson also created a very large cast of characters – some who stayed with Ursula in all of her lives – her parents, siblings, and villagers, and others who came into one of her lives but didn’t get a chance for a second appearance.
It still baffles me how Kate Atkinson was able to give each of her characters their own traits, their own personality, their own actions, and words. None of them seemed similar to another. I would be able to distinguish them just by dialogues, or by the way other characters reacted to his or her actions.
This book is written from the 3rd point of view, so even though we have many characters to follow during the story, we don’t switch PoVs as we progress through the book.
4 – The concept of living multiple lives wasn’t expanded on in the story, instead I felt that we, readers, were discovering it together with Ursula who seemed just as clueless, and also scared by often deja vu(s) and feelings of dread that persisted with her in all of her lives.
The fact that the author kept us guessing until the last pages was a good motivation to keep reading this rather chunky book.
As you can see, I only have positive things to say about «Life after Life», but this is one of those rare times when the quality of the book didn’t match my enjoyment of it. The beginning was definitely the strongest point – Ursula’s life spans were shorter, the plot seemed to progress faster but even then I still didn’t fall in love with it or started liking it as fast as I hoped to.
Only around 50-60% I started to appreciate the depth of the story, but did I truly enjoy it? I’m not so sure. The story was very dense and got slightly repetitive and boring at one point, and when I went to rate this book, it didn’t feel right to give it more than 2 stars.
Have you read any of Kate Atkinson’s books? Are you interested in reading «Life After Life»?