Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life

byKate Atkinson

Paperback | January 7, 2014

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"Is there Life After Life, chance after chance to rewrite one's destiny? That is the question posed by Atkinson's tale and brought to life by the miracle of her talent." --Toronto Star
     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. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

About The Author

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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Details & Specs

Title:Life After LifeFormat:PaperbackDimensions:496 pages, 8 × 5.3 × 1.1 inPublished:January 7, 2014Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385671393

ISBN - 13:9780385671392

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Extra Content

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.

Bookclub Guide

1. In the epigraph, Kate Atkinson quotes Edward Beresford Todd (Teddy): ‘What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?’ Do you agree that the chance to live life over and over, as Ursula does, would be wonderful? What do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of being able to start life again from scratch? 2. Some of the most dramatic scenes in the novel take place during the Blitz. Kate Atkinson has said: ‘If I could choose one period in history to return to, it would be London during that time. I can see that some people might consider that an odd choice but think what an extraordinary experience it would be’. What do you think made World War II and the Blitz such an extraordinary time? And if you could choose any period in history to visit, which would it be? 3. What did you think of the structure of Life After Life? Did you find yourself flicking back to earlier pages as you were reading? What effect do you think the non-linear, circular pattern had on your reading experience? Does it remind you of any other novels you have read? 4. Jackson Brodie, the main character in Kate Atkinson’s four previous novels, once said that things improve but they don’t get better. Can that statement be applied to Life After Life? 5. Ursula experiences a number of different kinds of relationships with men, and a variety of career choices, as she lives the different versions of her life. What do you think these alternate paths in her life say about the choices that were available to women during this period? 6. The one constant in all the different scenarios is that Ursula’s life always begins in a snowstorm. What does snow represent for you throughout the novel? 7. How did you feel when you got to the end of the novel? What do you think about ending the novel with the midwife Mrs. Haddock back in the Blue Lion pub, sipping her hot rum? 8. The Jackson Brodie novels have been characterised by many as crime novels. Some might define Life After Life as a historical novel. Do you think that Kate Atkinson’s writing can and should be classified into any particular fiction genre?

Editorial Reviews

Longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award"Don't make the mistake of thinking that the novel itself is anything other than illuminating. . . . The book transcends its subject matter to become a treatise on how to be human. . . . Art is long and life is short, but not too short to treat yourself to the pleasures of Kate Atkinson's prose along the way." --The Globe and Mail"Gripping . . . Breathless. . . . A masterful balancing act. Atkinson keeps the reader . . . constantly on edge, expecting the darkness to fall at any moment. . . . Life After Life is funny, thought-provoking and poignant. It combines the charms of hearth and home with the ravages of wartime. It's a love letter to a certain kind of English life but also as engrossing as a thriller." --Winnipeg Free Press