Ms. Atkinson’s wide-ranging body of work includes several novels that resemble mysteries, but she has never had the narrowly deductive mind to suit that genre. Life After Life is a big book that defies logic, chronology and even history in ways that underscore its author’s fully untethered imagination ... It’s more like a narrative multiverse, in which different versions of Ursula’s life compete for the reader’s attention and keep a conventionally one-note story well out of reach ...an exceptionally captivating book with an engaging cast of characters ... 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.
Her latest book, Life After Life, is longer than its predecessors, and so is the interval. It doesn’t star Jackson Brodie. It is noticeably ambitious ... The gimmick will be very familiar to science fiction fans. Countless stories, perhaps most famously Ken Grimwood’s 1987 cult favorite Replay...have shared just such a premise ... The book is at its best in those stretches. Haphazardly grafted onto the story of a young woman who is constantly reincarnated is the story of a young woman trying to cope with the brutality of wartime London ... Buried inside Life After Life is the best Blitz novel since Sarah Waters’s The Night Watch ... The rest is about a woman to whom 'Home was an idea, and like Arcadia it was lost in the past.'
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 ...ingenious narrative conceit — the decision to kill her protagonist and bring her back, again and again — not only illustrates how seemingly small decisions can affect our lives; it also allows us as readers to inhabit a novelist's creative process ... Atkinson is a writer who likes to play with plot and structure... As one story ends and another begins, we see that Ursula's existence is cyclical, swinging in different directions to encompass new (and sometimes unwelcome) possibilities ...it is we, the readers, who sense the pressure of repetition, the life lived many times.
Life After Life is a drama of failures and providential rebirths. It follows the repeating life of Ursula Todd, born in 1910 on a small family estate in the English countryside and endowed with the gift (or is it the curse?) of second chances ...the novel advances like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill but progressing a bit further each time before it rolls back down to the start ... One of the pleasures of Life After Life is watching these characters grow and change ...plot twists were a staple of the author's detective novels, but here they are put into service for the most unsatisfying aspect of Life After Life—the attempt to make Ursula's personal revisions change history ... Not only does she bring characters to life with enviable ease, she has an almost offhand knack for vivid scene-setting.
...the one-time-only nature of death is anything but self-evident in Kate Atkinson’s new novel, Life After Life. Its heroine, Ursula Todd, keeps dying, then dying again ... A great deal of experience, and 20th-century history, transpires in the intervals separating Ursula’s sudden and often violent exits from the world of the living ... But each turn in her story is, like the end(s) of her life, subject to revision ...reading the book is a mildly vertiginous experience...suggests a cross between Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter and those interactive 'hypertext' novels whose computer-savvy readers can determine the direction of the story ...it’s interesting to note how quickly Atkinson’s new rules replace the old ones, how assuredly she rewrites the contract ...Atkinson sharpens our awareness of the apparently limitless choices and decisions that a novelist must make on every page.
Life After Life is a dazzling juggling act that plays with chronology, conventional narrative and the meaning of existence ... British author Atkinson, with an ever-so-dry sense of humor, has also shown an uncanny knack for testing the limits of her characters’ brains and hearts ... Atkinson’s finest writing in this novel is devoted to the horrors of the Blitz and World War II ... As Life After Life, progresses, the logic behind the sequence of alternate histories begins to unfold. Ursula is moving slowly toward her ultimate fate. A pattern emerges from the palimpsest... Ursula finally learns who she is, and the world changes.
Ms. Atkinson's new novel, Life After Life, soars above anything she's done before ...Ms. Atkinson's time-bending, rule-breaking narrative most resembles David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Jim Crace's Being Dead ...has crafted an experimental novel that appeals to traditional readers ...is novelistic comfort food, something to consume when Downton Abbey isn't on ... Rambunctious moments of family life lighten darker themes of war and misogyny, and Ms. Atkinson knows how to render a funny scene... Several key dates and scenes recur and readers will find themselves checking back to compare the different versions ... The novel begins and ends with the concept of amor fati.
Life After Life is not a mystery in the traditional sense. It is not a traditional novel at all, in fact, with its stops and starts, its looping repetitions; Atkinson builds a fully realized world by accruing a constellation of possibilities ... At first it can be a bit difficult to invest in each successive storyline emotionally, given that it might abruptly end and start over at any point. Though, to Atkinson's great credit, the book almost miraculously never feels repetitive...soon enough the general shape of Ursula's life emerges, the pivotal occurrences, relationships, and directions become clear, and the reader is wholeheartedly immersed in Ursula's family and friends, her opportunities for happiness and fulfillment, and the possibility that she'll change the course of history ...a fantastically ambitious novel, seeking to capture the complexity and momentousness of life itself.
In Life After Life, Ursula keeps re-spawning after each death, eventually gaining some ability to return to life at a key checkpoint and make a different choice ... Her lives through the interwar years and the Blitz of London demonstrate how narrow women's roles and options could be then, but smart, pretty and determined, she makes her way ...Atkinson writes that it is about 'not just the reality of being English but also what we are in our own imagination' ... Playfully, she also threads the novel with grace notes about choices and time, such as allowing Ursula to buy the yellow party dress in one life that she denied herself in an earlier one.
...Ursula is born in 1910 and dies in 1967, although she lives dozens of lives, revealed by the title of Atkinson’s eighth novel, Life After Life. The alternate title could also be Death After Death, as our heroine suffers painful departures with the finality of the frequent phrase, 'darkness falls' ... It would be easy to dismiss her as an exceptionally deft maker of crime plots if she weren’t such a fine writer, a skill displayed in Life After Life with its vivid characters centered around Ursula’s large family ... So much fascinating reality lives amid the artificial feel of Atkinson’s fantasy ...an entertaining and suspenseful story that tells many versions of the history of the 20th century.
Ursula, a perceptive young woman who has always been a bit of an observer — the middle child in her bustling household — eventually grows more and more aware of her bizarre life story/ies ...Ursula is vulnerable to any number of obstacles — rape, unwanted pregnancy, illegal abortion, harassment, despair, inadequate education — all of which she encounters on one or more of her journeys through history ...she returns to some of the considerations of her earlier fiction, particularly about the inner life of children and about how wars and the deaths of children affect families and women in particular ...built on the sprawling, multi-dimensional characteristics of her detective fiction in this novel as well, as she gradually introduces readers not only to Ursula's vivid inner life but also to the dozens of people whose lives she touches, time after time ...Kate Atkinson at her brilliantly inventive best.
...Life After Life is flat-out magnificent, a virtuoso performance that had me slowing down in the last chapters because I didn't want it to end — then speeding back up because I had to know what would happen ...less reincarnation, in which souls move on to new bodies and lives, than Groundhog Day — except that Ursula lives her whole life over, not just a day ... Ursula is, in every version of herself, engaging — smart, practical, quietly brave, self-effacing but independent ...Atkinson's trademarks is the multilayered, complex plot full of startling twists. Life After Life is a turbo-charged version of that...has often stunningly beautiful prose, wry humor and heart-wrenching emotion, deeply human characters and enduring mysteries, and, above all, brilliant storytelling that will propel you through every one of Ursula's lives.