Sunday, March 10, 2013


Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"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." 

Bottom Line: This is Kate Atkinson's masterpiece as far as I am concerned. From now on I will read absolutely anything she writes without having to know anything about it in advance.

I've obviously put off writing this review. Is it harder to write about a book you really loved? Several other reviewers have said as much. It's that feeling that you won't do honor to what you have personally experienced. Anyway I am going to let that be my excuse.

I have been a fan of Kate Atkinson since Stephen King raved about Case Histories a number of years ago in Entertainment Weekly. Her earlier books are mostly literate mysteries featuring Jackson Brodie, former police inspector now a private investigator. I loved them all.

But what if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

That is the fascinating question posed by Kate Atkinson in her Life After Life. There are very few books I read a second time but I know this will join that short list. The first time through I devoured the story without much savoring of the many fine details in this beautifully written and constructed palimpsest. (You can even check out Pinterest for images that play a part in the story.)

Atkinson has a way of putting words together that constantly strike you as unique but right. Her detailed observations and allusions draw the reader in while creating an unsettled feeling of dread..

Through the use of repetition and overlapping circumstances, the author shows us how small decisions can change the course of lives. Ursula Todd lives and dies with a vague sense of knowing things that other people don't know. Some of her lives are terrible. She asks herself the question we all think about. Is there a purpose? Is there something I am here to accomplish?

I have been surprised by a number of original books I've read recently: Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Herman Koch's The Dinner for example, but nothing comes close to Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. It is remarkable.

Disclaimer: A copy of Life After Life was provided to me by Reagan Arthur Books/Netgalley for review purposes.

Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Genre: Literate fiction
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
No. of Pages: 544 pages
Copyright: April 2, 2013
ISBN: 0316176486
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was named the UK's Whitbread Book of the Year in 1995. Since then, she has written seven more ground-breaking, bestselling books, most recently Started Early, Took My Dog. She lives in Edinburgh. 

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