Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: Book Review

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Cover of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

4 Stars

Ursula Todd is born on a cold winter’s night in England in 1910…over and over again. Sometimes she is stillborn, other times she makes it through, only to die later and start over at the same place. Each time, something is a little different and her life takes drastically diverging paths as a result.

Someone asked me what this is about and it’s almost impossible to explain. “Reincarnation but…not. She lives the same life over and over but…not really.” What matters is watching how minute differences in Ursula’s life change her story completely.

That was what I really enjoyed. I liked the whole concept of playing with a character’s life like that just to see what happens. There were lives that I hated and lives that I loved. Some were depressing, some were horrific, some were odd, but they were almost all interesting. Some got a little crazy. The prelude shows us Ursula, a pretty English girl, setting out to assassinate–a Nazi official (I’m pretty sure it’s not spelled out at that point). Where the heck did that come from? Once I got to that life, it did make sense but still–wow.

There were a couple of drawbacks though. The book got repetitive. I don’t think there was any possible way to avoid that in this kind of story but there you go. I think the author did the best anyone could have but I was still heartily sick of that snowy winter night that Ursula was born. Also, I started having trouble remembering what had happened in each life by the end. “Is this the one where this happened or was it that?” I can’t say that I was always entirely sure.

The characters weren’t a huge draw for me but this is one instance where the story itself was engaging enough that I was able to overlook that. Ursula varied so much that I can’t comment on whether I liked her or not. I guess I liked her well enough. Her mother was just terrible. Her brother Teddy was too good to be true. Her aunt Izzy was a flighty idiot but generally fun. Pretty much everybody could be summed up in one sentence.

Still, the book was so different from anything else I’ve read that it kept my attention and I would recommend it.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Kate Atkinson at her website and Facebook.

Buy Life After Life at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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1 Comment

  1. The snowy night did get a bit repetitive, but overall, I loved this book. I thought it was very clever, and I liked how the lives ranged from ordinary to extraordinary.

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