Life After Life

Hardcover | April 2, 2013

byKate Atkinson

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Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
      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, she finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past.

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From the Publisher

Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.       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 s...

KATE ATKINSON won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and has been a critically acclaimed international author ever since. Her most recent four bestsellers featured the former private detective Jackson Brodie: Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:480 pages, 9.3 × 6.6 × 1.2 inPublished:April 2, 2013Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385671377

ISBN - 13:9780385671378

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Read from the Book

November 1930A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the café. She had come in from the rain and drops of water still trembled like delicate dew on the fur coats of some of the women inside. A regiment of white-aproned waiters rushed around at tempo, serving the needs of the Münchner at leisure – coffee, cake and gossip.He was at a table at the far end of the room, surrounded by the usual cohorts and toadies. There was a woman she had never seen before – a permed, platinum blonde with heavy make-up – an actress by the look of her. The blonde lit a cigarette, making a phallic performance out of it. Everyone knew that he preferred his women demure and wholesome, Bavarian preferably. All those dirndls and knee-socks, God help us.The table was laden. Bienenstich, Gugelhupf, Käsekuchen. He was eating a slice of Kirschtorte. He loved his cakes. No wonder he looked so pasty, she was surprised he wasn’t diabetic. The softly repellent body (she imagined pastry) beneath the clothes, never exposed to public view. Not a manly man. He smiled when he caught sight of her and half rose, saying, ‘Guten Tag, gnädiges Fräulein,’ indicating the chair next to him. The bootlicker who was currently occupying it jumped up and moved away.‘Unsere Englische Freundin,’ he said to the blonde, who blew cigarette smoke out slowly and examined her without any interest before eventually saying, ‘Guten Tag.’ A Berliner.She placed her handbag, heavy with its cargo, on the floor next to her chair and ordered Schokolade. He insisted that she try the Pflaumen Streusel.‘Es regnet,’ she said by way of conversation. ‘It’s raining.’‘Yes, it’s raining,’ he said with a heavy accent. He laughed, pleased at his attempt. Everyone else at the table laughed as well. ‘Bravo,’ someone said. ‘Sehr gutes Englisch.’ He was in a good mood, tapping the back of his index finger against his lips with an amused smile as if he was listening to a tune in his head.The Streusel was delicious.‘Entschuldigung,’ she murmured, reaching down into her bag and delving for a handkerchief. Lace corners, monogrammed with her initials, ‘UBT’ – a birthday present from Pammy. She dabbed politely at the Streusel flakes on her lips and then bent down again to put the handkerchief back in her bag and retrieve the weighty object nesting there. Her father’s old service revolver from the Great War, a Webley Mark V.A move rehearsed a hundred times. One shot. Swiftness was all, yet there was a moment, a bubble suspended in time after she had drawn the gun and levelled it at his heart when everything seemed to stop.‘Führer,’ she said, breaking the spell. ‘Für Sie.’Around the table guns were jerked from holsters and pointed at her.One breath. One shot.Ursula pulled the trigger.Darkness fell.

Editorial Reviews

National BestsellerA New York Times BestsellerWinner of the 2013 Costa Book AwardShortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction"There aren't enough breathless adjectives to describe Life After Life: Dazzling, witty, moving, joyful, mournful, profound. Wildly inventive, deeply felt. Hilarious. Humane. Simply put: it's one of the best novels I've read this century." —Gillian Flynn, bestselling author of Gone Girl and Sharp Objects "Think of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife or David Nicholls' One Day. . . . [or] Martin Amis' Times Arrow. . . . Life After Life should have the popular success of the former and deserves to win prizes, too. Atkinson has done something highly unusual, boldly beginning afresh. . . . [Atkinson] sets herself an audacious premise and the most ambitious sweep of our modern history, and absolutely nails it on every count. It both pleases the crowd and feeds the soul, in the spirit of the grand masters." —The Times (UK)  "In a lesser writer's hands, a novel that revisits its main character's birth 12 times would likely be tiresome, but each revision is fresh, often funny, and filled with new life in more ways than one. Atkinson tackles a mystical theme in Life After Life, but she is at heart a realist." —Maclean’s"Merging family saga with a fluid sense of time and an extraordinarily vivid sense of history at its most human level. A dizzying and dazzling tour de force." —Daily Mail (UK)"Brilliant . . . more than just a terrific story about the impact of one existence on another. Atkinson can knock the socks off any rival in terms of skill and style. . . . The tour de force of the book, though, is Atkinson's recreation of the Blitz . . . unputdownable." —Evening Standard (UK)"Startlingly brilliant . . . endlessly rich." —Reader's Digest"Life After Life is to be applauded for its inventiveness, and for reminding us of lives vanished without trace or memory in the waste and monstrosity of war." —Literary Review"Kate Atkinson's new novel is a box of delights. Ingenious in construction, indefatigably entertaining, it grips the reader's imagination on the first page and never lets go. If you wish to be moved and astonished, read it. And if you want to give a dazzling present, buy it for your friends." —Hilary Mantel, award-winning author of Wolf Hall"At heart this is a war story . . . and in its focus on the women and civilians usually overlooked or downplayed, it gives the Blitz its full measure of terror. . . . [Atkinson's] found an inventive way to make both the war's toll and the pull of alternate history, of darkness avoided or diminished, fresh." —Publishers Weekly"Provocative, entertaining and beautifully written." —Kirkus Reviews"Atkinson’s world is cruelly arbitrary yet also exultantly resurgent. . . . Atkinson packs a huge emotional punch with fluency of language and poetical leitmotifs from Donne to Keats. As with Martin Amis' Time’s Arrow and Ian McEwan's Atonement, she explores the kaleidoscopic paradoxes of 'what if'." —The Telegraph (UK) "Much of the (very considerable) pleasure of this almost deliriously inventive, sharply imagined and ultimately affecting novel lies in the almost spookily vivid atmosphere and pathos that Atkinson manages to extract from all this Groundhog Day repetition. . . . Atkinson's knack for retelling—what to repeat, what to change, what to leave out—is satisfyingly faultless. Most of all, though, there's an odd exhilaration in the sheer number and the build-up. . . . Atkinson has written something that amounts to so much more than the sum of its (very many) parts." —The Guardian (UK) "Life After Life is ultimately centered on the brutal British experience of World War II, with characters caught in the blitz and Ursula joining a rescue unit for injured civilians. As powerful as the rest of Life After Life is, its lengthy evocation of this nightmare is gutsy and deeply disturbing, just as the author intends it to be." —The New York Times"It takes a brilliant author to keep things interesting while telling the same story over and over. . . . [Atkinson] goes deep into the minds of her characters, while creating readable, intelligent and quirky books. . . . [Atkinson's novels] are thought-provoking and filled with complex characters, classical references and subtle hints. Her latest, Life After Life, is all of that. . . . Atkinson's rendering of the war is vivid, heartbreaking and staggering. . . . [A] brilliant novel, written in a lighthearted style, but with great depth." —The Vancouver Sun "There's a bit of Edward Gorey-esque glee in the way Kate Atkinson keeps knocking off her main character in Life After Life. And yet, she manages to invest these repeated deaths with poetry and emotion. . . . [An] ingenious narrative conceit. . . . with Life After Life, Atkinson has crafted a narrative that pushes us to think about our own choices. . . . Along the way, there is a delight in the essence of this unusual fiction." —Los Angeles Times "Atkinson is a master, weaving together the many strands of the story, making each narrative as compelling as the last. The tale is enriched with literary references and philosophies introduced by the characters in easily digestible forms." —Chatelaine  "It is in [the Todds'] poignant constancy that Atkinson excels at deploying her sharp wit, her keen grasp of character and her mastery of narrative irony. . . . If you could go back immediately and read a dazzling, intricate and entertaining novel a second time to catch some of the storytelling magic you missed the first, would you? If the book is Atkinson's Life After Life, then why not?" —San Francisco Chronicle