Book Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life-After-Life-by-Kate-AtkLife After Life by Kate Atkinson

Release Date: April 2, 2013

Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, British Literature, World War I, World War II,

Available for pre-order via:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Audible


Synopsis: 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.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.


Kate Atkinson has created a wonderfully unique story about fate and destiny – how changing one action, one thing that might otherwise be out of your control, can change your entire life as well as the lives of those around you. Atkinson has a writing style to which some readers may need some adjusting, but that can also get readers completely engrossed in the story. As for the story itself, it is a strange story, to say the least. It was not done the way I’d anticipated it would be based on the synopsis, but that was not a bad thing – it was actually better than I imagined it would be.

That said, I often felt like I should be taking notes so that I could keep track of all the peripheral characters. They’d be introduced once, not mentioned for several chapters, then casually mentioned again, when you’ve already forgotten their connection to the story – who they’re related to, who they work for, all of it. The same can be said for Ursula’s age – as well as her siblings’ ages – which I eventually did decide to just write down on my bookmark so that I could quickly figure out her age when the story jumped from one year to another.

As stated in the synopsis, Ursula dies frequently throughout the novel. As such, it is also important to note that some readers may get frustrated with the story, as some parts are repetitive – particularly when Ursula dies, as every time she dies Atkinson takes readers back to the moment of her birth, though each time offers a a new perspective. In addition, because the story changes frequently, dependent upon Ursula’s survival, after a while it is impossible to tell what segments are going to be Ursula’s – and her family’s – true story and what is going to change the next time Ursula dies.

Of course, with that constant change and mystery, it is almost like reading a new story every chapter – which really keeps things interesting throughout the novel. Add to that the historical setting that encompasses living in England through both World Wars, Atkinson has crafted a master story. Overall, Life After Life is a very original novel, one that you will enjoy and find yourself unable to forget it long after you’ve finished it.

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