Thursday, 19 June 2014

Book Review No.7: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Well, I can safely say this is my book of the year (so far.) I'm writing this review about three months after actually finishing the book (yes, it's fair to say I'm a bit behind with this blogging lark), and I still keep thinking about it. Safe to say, I LOVED it. If you've not read it, rush out and buy a copy right now. Go on, go, get thee to a Waterstones, or perhaps a lovely little independent bookshop where your £7.99 could help keep them in business. I'll wait here, patiently, while you buy the book and read it so you can let me know what you think...

Ok, have you finished it? Tell me, did you love it too? I do hope so.

And just in case you haven't had time to get to the shops, let me at least give you a little taster of the book and try to explain why I enjoyed it so much. This is the blurb from the back (the italics are as they appear on the book jacket):

"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?"

Does it sound intriguing to you? I think I must have read a review or recommendation of this book in a magazine somewhere, which is what led me to seek it out. I decided to treat myself and buy it to take on holiday. For someone who professes to be such a book lover, I buy remarkably few books new, tending instead to scour the charity shop shelves, my saved searches on eBay or else Read It Swap It. The exception I make is for cozy crime books when we go to the USA (and it's possible that I might go a little bit craaaaazy at this point.) But I had some coins jangling in my pocket after counting up my tips from the tea room and there was a holiday looming (Hawaii, mid-Feb, which just goes to show how behind I am with these reviews), so I decided to push the boat out. Living life on the edge...

Back to the book. This is the story of Ursula who lives and dies many, many times throughout the course of the book. Each time she is reborn the story is retold with the changes that occur as a result of her not dying/being killed; sometimes big changes, sometimes minor ones. Changes that affect not just Ursula, but her family, friends and acquaintances too. The story begins in 1910, on the night that Ursula is born. And dies. And is born again, and lives. And so on and so on, back and forth across the first and second world wars, with a twist and turn, and we are drawn further and further into the lives of Ursula and her family. The details of their life at home in the idyllic Fox Corner where Mrs Glover the cook soaks kidneys in milk in the pantry, and the housemaid brings trays of drinks out to the family on the lawn are fascinating, and juxtapose with the chapters of Ursula's life in bomb-ravaged London as the Second World War rages. Ursula has vague recollections of her 'past lives' which fill her with a sense of dread and anxiety, as a result of which she is sent to a psychiatrist; these recollections also lead her to commit such acts as pushing the housemaid down the stairs to save her from a much worse fate.

In one of Ursula's adult lives she ends up living in Germany, befriending Hitler's longtime companion Eva Braun. This was actually the section of the book that I found least engaging. I felt like I really plodded through these 40 or so pages; but this was a minor blip in an otherwise wonderfully absorbing, captivating, and downright fantastic book. Can you tell I liked this one?!? I would absolutely 100% without doubt recommend it, and I'd love to hear if you've read it and what you thought.

Oh, and one last thing; there was a quote from the Greek poet Pindar very near the end of the book which I was rather taken with: Become such as you are, having learned what that isso I just thought I'd share it with you.

PS - I'm sorry for my lack of blog posts lately; the tea room is keeping me so busy that I'm struggling to find time to fit in 'normal' life.


  1. I've added this to my wishlist on Amazon (it's becoming a huge list!) I like the sound of it.
    So glad the tea room is doing well, I like seeing what's on the menu on Facebook, sadly it would take me all day to drive to you for a coffee and slice of something good!

    1. It's definitely wishlist material!
      Thanks for following the tea room on Facebook - at least you can enjoy virtual coffee and cakes with us!

  2. I absolutely LOVED this book, it will be on my top 10 list this year. I've read all of her books, but this is the BEST.
    Missed you blogging, don't let the shop wear you out.

    1. I'm so glad to hear you loved the book too; it's nice to know that someone else feels the same!
      Thanks for your kind comment.


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