Book Review: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Hi All, 

It's been really long since I posted a book review. Though I had aimed at a 'book a weekend ', the  first book that am reviewing ended up being a 600-page novel and it was far from getting over by the weekend. 


What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

My Take on the Book:

Set against the backdrop of post World War- II, the author reinvigorates the 'what if' question to the scenarios that dominated the livelihoods of people post the war. Through the eyes of her central character, Ursula Todd, the narrative flows from  past to present to past describing vividly how the events of Ursula's life have an affect on her as a person, as a daughter, as a women, as a lover and as a survivor of the war. While the author has woven all the elements magically, giving vivid descriptions of the war scenarios, Ursula's home, family, her love life, and her changing personalities; the narrative picks up pace towards the beginning and the end, slacking a bit in the middle. 

Though as a reader, I feel the book could have been a little less elaborate towards the end but then when you read the author's note (at the end of the book), you realise that there has been a painstaking effort into writing the book. Thorough research, and including some of her personal experiences especially her family, the author gives shape to the book. 

The shift of narrative from past to present becomes a little too over the top at times, making you lose track of the storyline. There is a hint that Ursula has the ability to see the future or something haunts her from the past, however, this gets marred by the number of times the author shifts focus from Ursula's present to what happened in the past and especially when the war scenes come up. 

In her bid to show the research that she has undertaken to write the book, the author loses the plot quite some time and by the end of it, there are a couple of scenes that are described through the eyes of Ursula earlier in the book but never get explained till the end. 

Kate Atkinson's Life after Life is the winner of COSTA Novel Award 2013. Whether I will pick the book again to read? Not sure, definitely not anytime soon. But you can give it a shot if you like moving, emotional and vivid narratives. 

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