Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Life after Life by Kate AtkinsonUrsula Todd lives and dies multiple times in this oddly structured, but wonderfully written book. Sometimes Ursula dies as an infant and other times as an adult, but another life – in the same place and time, always replaces the one she has just lost. Although she does not remember her previous lives, Ursula has uneasy feelings of foreshadowing which allow her to avoid previous disasters – both for herself as well as for family members and friends. In subsequent lives, she survives various childhood ailments and accidents, toxic relationships, and the London Blitz. While the key ingredients remain the same, small decisions create wildly different outcomes in a deftly handled portrait of one character’s impact on her world.

What the Armchair Critics Thought:
Most of us really enjoyed this book. It was sometimes difficult to understand which life Ursula was leading and how her circumstances had changed, but it became easier as the book progressed. Some found the middle of the book a little slow, and wished that Ursula had led a more pleasant life if we had to read about it several times over. The descriptions of the Blitz and of hunting through bombed out rubble for survivors were vivid and horrific. We were less impressed with the portion of the story set in Germany and wondered why the outcome of this life was not more plainly addressed in subsequent chapters. We were also intrigued by Ursula’s mother’s actions in the final chapter – was she experiencing déjà vu?

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