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Review: Life After Life

lifeTitle: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Release Date: April, 2 2013
Pages: 529

First Line: “A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the cafe.”

“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. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.” – from Goodreads

My thoughts: I see how this idea was a cool one. I was really curious about this book when I heard about it. But it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be. I, unlike some of the other reviewers I’ve read, actually liked the beginning of the book the best. Even though it was a little repetitive, we were learning something new with each visit to birth day, and each day she died. And in the beginning, Ursula at least has feelings or some intuition of things to come, and found ways to avoid them. But then as the book goes on, it’s like she loses that, I guess because she’s older? I’m not sure, but I think what I was expecting was for her to remember more and more of past lives rather than less and less. To me, that is what made the book redundant. Even though we, the reader, see that Ursula is reliving her life over and over again, if she doesn’t realize that, we are really just reading the same life… over and over again. Yes, this book showed how different traumatic events or choices we make can affect our lives in such significant ways, but that’s something we knew already. What I wanted was for Ursula to know that. I wanted her to remember. I wanted her to change the outcome of her life because she remembered her mistakes and because she wanted to. I didn’t want to just watch her stumble into different fates without understanding why. Once I realized that was not what this book was, and it wasn’t going to happen that way, I could enjoy the beautiful writing for what it was without the high expectations of something spectacular happening in the story. I think the prologue threw me too, because (it’s not really a spoiler if it’s in the prologue, right?) after you knew you could kill Hitler, would you ever live your life another way?

My Ratings:
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Subject: 3/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5