SDR Book of the Week: Life After Life

ImageLife After Life, by Kate Atkinson. Reagan Arthur, 529 pp. $27.99

I feel like I should talk about this book because everyone else seems to be talking about it. And rightly so.

Ursula Todd is born on February 11, 1910, several times throughout the book. In some instances she dies days later, “a helpless little heart beating wildly. Stopped suddenly like a bird dropped from the sky.” In some she experiences a few years, a small life cut quickly on an icy landing while in pursuit of a doll. In some experiences, she leads a rather extensive, seemingly fulfilling life, maybe marrying, maybe having children, maybe involving herself with the war effort in search of fallen citizens.

In each of Ursula’s lives, however, only a few things change. In one she receives her first kiss by her brother’s brashly American friend on her sixteenth birthday. Later, because she was kind enough to let him kiss her, he takes advantage of her upstairs.

As she continues to die and be reborn, however, she experiences deja vu over situations from past lives. On a separate sixteenth birthday, Ursula behaves much more chaste around her brother’s friend, thereby avoiding the upcoming tragic situation altogether.

Sometimes when I’m reading a book I try to imagine the author’s process or outline when organizing the plot lines, character charts, etc. (I’m in the process of outlining a novel now, so I often relate back to my own grueling experience). Atkinson weaves so many plot lines together, seamlessly, and even remembers to go back and tie up ends she left loose 300 pages back.

Life After Life was published only Tuesday in the U.S., though it was published about a month ago in the UK and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize in Fiction several weeks ago. This book is huge, people. I guarantee you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the coming months.


About katepadilla

I write for the Spencer Daily Reporter in Spencer, Iowa. I keep blogs lifebythebooks, Save Me, San Francisco, and Beauty and Beast Buy a House. I'm also hard at work writing a short story collection inspired by the music of Train.

One response to “SDR Book of the Week: Life After Life”

  1. Karen gorter says :

    What a great review, Kate. I admire you for reading “outside the lines” and sharing your perspective with others through your thoughtful and sharp pen.

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