Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Narrator: Fenella Woolgar
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audio: 15.6 hours
Publisher: Hachette Audio (Reagan Arthur in print)
Source: Personal Collection
Book Rating: 4/5
Audio Rating: 5/5
Ursula lives and dies, over and over, retaining a shadow of knowledge from each prior life. Each time she relives her life, subtle changes lead to significant changes, yet much remains the same. Spanning two World Wars, Ursula lives her live again and again, highlighting the opportunities, and missed opportunities, she faces every day.
I went into this one with great expectations, assuming I would fall for it the way you all did. I always wonder what these expectations do to color my reading experience. Wouldn’t it be great to go in with no expectations at all and just let the book work its magic?
Well I fell, but maybe not quite so hard as the rest of you.
I grew attached to each version of Ursula, invested in whatever lifetime she was living at the time, and then grieved for each death. I thought each character, especially the inner-family was so well-developed, despite the need to do this over multiple lives as well.
It was interesting to watch fate and (what we would call) history have their say in Ursula’s lives, most notably with the Spanish Flu and the Blitz.
Life After Life is unique in both its storytelling manner and its beautiful writing. It is worth the investment (it’s rather lengthy).
And now, the reasons I didn’t give this 5 stars. Warning: this part may get a little spoilery.
I assumed – perhaps from the publisher’s suggestion – that the book would culminate in one final perfect life, where she does what she was meant to do. So when that happened and there were still more lives (and seemingly infinite lives to follow), I was disappointed. After discussing it with Jen, I suppose I understand that the point is probably that there is no perfect life, no matter how many chances you get. But the never-ending nature of Ursuala’s lives made me weary by the end. And made me wonder why it ended where it did.
Ms. Woolgar was fantastic. That’s all you need to know.
I wondered how this would translate to audio – it took me a bit to get into the print edition but I ended up really enjoying it. I still think about it from time to time. I think it would be a good book club pick.
I’ve got this one in print, so I didn’t read your spoiler paragraph. Hoping to get to this later this summer.
Enjoyed your review.
I was surprised how much I liked this one. I did get your perfect life issue, because I felt it somewhat to. Part of me wondered just how much baggage she took from life to life. It seemed like she never really got a clean slate, that in some ways she carried psychic scars that prevented her from achieving a perfect life. Of course, I may just be over thinking things.