Life After Life

Life After Life

A Novel

Book - 2014
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"What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. 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 a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can--will she?"--
Publisher: New York : Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company, 2014
Edition: First Back Bay paperback edition
Copyright Date: ©2013
ISBN: 9780316176491
Branch Call Number: FIC ATKINSO 2014
Characteristics: xiv, 525 pages, 14 pages ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

This critically acclaimed genre-bender follows Ursula Todd through her many lives and deaths. Ursula dies promptly after she's born on a snowy evening in 1910 in England. The next time she's born, on the same evening, she lives for a few years before drowning. Ursula dies and is reborn into the s... Read More »

Just as Marianne and Roland live multiple variations of their relationship, Ursula Todd is able to live versions of her life as she is born and reborn throughout the 20th century. Atkinson explores how a single life could take so many different paths.

From the critics

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Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / November 2016

May 17, 2019

0. Couldn't read.

May 11, 2019

I read "a God in Ruins" before "Life after Life", and although they are stand-alone books, they do involve the same family. I doubt I would have read "a God in Ruins" if I'd already read "Life after Life", as I wouldn't have believed the narrative in "a God in Ruins" after reading "Life after Life". Although both books do provide some fascinating (and horrifying) accounts of the reality of the Great war (WWI) and WWII, and the Todd family et al are interesting characters, I felt that the author went overboard with the constant reinvention of Ursula's life. While a very interesting premise for a novel, I felt it could have been shorter in length, as I lost interest about 3/4 of the way through, but plodded on until the end.

Mar 25, 2019

This is a must-read. It throws you all over the place in a good way. Got through it in two days.

Mar 03, 2019

From this fascinating book, I come away with the thought that our lives hang by threads and could easily have been different. Of course in real life time is linear and unalterable, but in our minds we imagine differently.

John Whittier wrote, "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'."

The book is confusing, jumping around in time and place. These websites are helpful: and
Each has a plot summary and list of characters. Also, I like the author's comments.

One reader complained about the quotes from foreign languages. Yes, the author was snobbish to omit translations. These can be found on the Internet, either searching the quote or using Google translate (not reliable). For instance, in the chapter "Like a Fox in a Hole", the author describes a demonstration by desperate veterans and quotes Dante describing people going to hell:

"Si lunga tratta di gente, ch’i’ non averei creduto che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta."

I translate this: "Such a long procession of people; I never would have believed that death had undone so many." The implication is life can be like hell.

If you liked this book, read the sequel, A Life in Ruins.

SurreyLibrarian Jan 03, 2019

Life After Life – Does the course of your life depend on fate or do you have control based on the choices you make? Ursula Todd is born on a snowy winter day in 1910 .. and then dies before she can take a breath. Or does she? The very same day, she is born, the doctor arrives in time, and Ursula lives. We follow Ursula’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as Kate Atkinson weaves in key historical events from the early to mid 20th century – World War I, the Spanish influenza epidemic, and then World War II, both in London during the Blitz and Germany in the ‘30s and ‘40s. We witness Ursula’s birth and death over and over again — in each timeline she makes different decisions that lead to wildly different life paths. Or is it fate acting upon her? A highly enjoyable read for fans of British historical fiction and alternative histories. The audiobook, read by Fenella Woolgar, brings the characters to life. (Submitted by Beth)

Dec 28, 2018

The only things that interests me in this book is the heroine’s ability to go back in time every time she dies, which means she gets to live forever with different stories and endings. This novel reverts European people’s life around two world wars with vivid description. However, this book is really long, which made it difficult for me to finish. Further more, there are a lot of foreign words like French and German that are hard to understand. All in all, it’s a book with interesting setting yet I find it hard to keep reading. 3/5 Stars. @Vayne of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board

HCL_staff_reviews Dec 26, 2018

I have intended to read a Kate Atkinson novel for a long time after hearing so many people sing her praises. I finally picked up the audiobook Life After Life. After listening to a few discs, I was hooked. The theme is reincarnation and the writing is absolutely stunning. I have never read a novel like this one. Ursula Todd is born in 1910 on a snowy night and dies at delivery. Then she is reborn again and again. Each of her lives is different, although she always has the same family. A fascinating and original novel. — Kim B., Ridgedale Library

Jan 28, 2018

Stopped reading, too slow and jumped around too much!

Sep 24, 2017

A clever book! It was a very interesting read. Some of the elements are repetitive with variation, and each scenario of the main character's life is very surprising. The climax brought everything together and ultimately gave way for a new version of her life that was very interesting. I will definitely read the author's other books, especially the companion to this book!

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Sep 14, 2015

Life is too precious to be unhappy.

Aug 05, 2015

"He's always been a politician. He was born a politician." No, Ursula thought, he was born a baby, like everyone else. And this is what he has chosen to become.

Jul 15, 2015

It's time she thought. A clock struck somewhere in sympathy. She thought of Teddy and Mrs. Woolf, of Roland and little Angela, of Nancy and Sylvie. She thought of Dr. Kellet and Pindar. Become such as you are, having learned what is. She knew what she was now. She was Ursula Beresford Todd and she was a witness.

debwalker Jul 08, 2014

Fur sie, fuhrer.

JCLJanineM Oct 28, 2013

"Darkness fell."

JCLJanineM Oct 28, 2013

"Home," it had struck her on the torturous drive back to London, wasn't Egerton Gardens, wasn't even Fox Corner. Home was an idea, and like Arcadia it was lost in the past."

Jun 10, 2013

"They had triumphed over death this night. Sylvie wondered when death would seek his revenge."


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cindyhib Sep 09, 2014

ery Confusing!!!!

Mar 10, 2014

This is the first book I have read by this author. I will definitely read another book by her as her style of writing is great. However, this book was a bit hard to follow. The basic premise is to show what would happen if you could relive events in your life until you got them right. The concept is great, but a bit cumbersome in the execution. You end up having chapter after chapter of the same events happening with different outcomes. The net result is you are left with a story that has no real linear story as you aren't sure what this person's life really ended up being. In the end it seems there would be some sort of tying together of all the elements. However there was not, and the reader is left hanging in the air, which is frustrating slogging through a fairly dense book. This would be a great book for a book club though as there is lots of food for thought.


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Mar 10, 2014

dkilrain thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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