Life After Life

Last post I left you with a tease, which was a pretty ballsy thing to do, considering I’ve been a no-show around here for weeks and weeks!

So now, let’s talk about Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

I first heard about this book getting my daily gossip fix on laineygossip.com. Lainey had read it and it stayed with her; she couldn’t get it out of her head. So she posted about it and the premise was so intriguing that I put it on my list.

Then I kept seeing it everywhere. And it became a Chatelaine Book Club pick.

My stumbling block? Only available in hardcover thus far.

Clearly I got over that.

The idea is thus: what would happen if you could live your life over and over again? If every time you died, you got to do it again and change things? Would you do things differently? Would the world around you be different?

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It’s an insanely inventive literary device, allowing Atkinson to tell multiple stories at one time. Initially it’s actually kind of a strange thing to get used to. The midwife is stuck in a snowstorm but the baby arrives with the cord around it’s neck, the baby dies. The doctor is able to make it, the cord is stuck around the neck but the baby lives.

The same baby is 4 and playing on the beach, jumping into the waves. She ventures too far and she drowns.

She’s playing on the beach, jumping into the waves but a painter painting the landscape sees it happen and pulls her out.

I promise I’m not ruining it for you.

This story was incredible. Some of the turns it takes are tragic, others are uplifting, still others are humorous. Eva Braun and Hitler make appearances. I became obsessed with the name Ursula. I’m told I can never name my daughter that because it still makes everyone think of the witch in The Little Mermaid. But if everyone would just read this book instead, maybe we could change that???

My one regret is that I didn’t suggest this as a book club read. This would have been a good one to talk about with other people.

Have you read it yet? Can we talk about it?

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11 thoughts on “Life After Life

  1. I just read The Other Life by Ellen Meister and it seems to be a similar premise. The main character can sense portals where she can slip into her other life – the other side of decisions she’s made.

    • There’s another one as well The Many Lives of Greta Wells I think it’s called. I think that the main difference here is that Ursula doesn’t have portals to make choices with, she has to face the consequences of her decisions in life.
      It’s a really interesting plot device though, no matter how you spin it!

  2. I am glad you liked it because I really wanted to like it. I like Kate Atkinson a lot. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the different historical periods she painted but I wished wished wished as I was reading it that the character of Ursula had been more definite and could make me care more about her. It was a good idea of the alternative lives and it would be interesting if another author could do a different take on it.

    • I really did love this book.

      I wonder if, by jumping in and out of the story, Atkinson sacrificed some character depth that might have made you love Ursula?

      I know there are a couple other books that are using this kind of plot device. I haven’t read it yet but The Secret Life of Greta Wells comes to mind- maybe you’d like that one better?

      • Definitely the jumping around sacrificed character depth for me. Also eg the bit where Ursula became an abused wife – that was so different and her whole personality was different. You could see where it was going and therefore that became a dead end to me while I was reading. Nevertheless, that part was memorable!

        The book as a whole stayed with me, even though I didn’t feel for the characters. Maybe because of the great descriptions. OR maybe because of the unusual portrayal of characters. Weird. I think a book is not all about liking the characters. It’s more than that. It’s about being ambitious and making us think too.

        Greta Wells sounds good. Thanks for the tip. I will give it a go.

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