• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Ursula unknowingly lives her life over and over again as Atkinson explores how choices large and small cause enormous repercussions for a person--and sometimes for the entire world.

“It was a long time ago now, and it was yesterday.”


Ursula didn't survive her own birth. But she got another go-round at life, and that time she survived being born--only to die young in an accident. When she lived her next life, she lived slightly differently, and her decisions shifted moments and changed the fates of Ursula and those around her.

She isn't aware of the countless number of lives she lives, but she often feels buoyed or hindered by a feeling of déjà vu, and occasionally she feels compelled to take a different path, rush to check on a loved one, or take some other seemingly odd action, and she can't quite explain why.

In Life After Life, Atkinson focuses her literary fiction lens on the character of Ursula, her relationships with members of her family, and details of life during World Wars I and II. This would be a captivating book even without the redoing-life element. But Atkinson's thrusting of Ursula back into her same existence as she shifts her circumstances slightly (with enormous repercussions); opens up her life to be bigger and more fulfilling (and often in these cases, longer); and develops inner strength, conviction, and self-assuredness--that's the real magic.

At times Ursula's decision-making and her unknowing shifting of situations has immense personal impact (as it impacts her own or the fates of her family members) or worldwide-ranging effects (as when she finds herself in Hitler's close circle), it's never stale to experience some of Life After Life's events again, knowing certain things will eventually move in another direction.

I read (listened to) this immersive story about do-overs from Kate Atkinson at the recommendation of my wise friend Laura. I feared I'd get turned around in time by listening to the book rather than reading it, but narrator Fenella Woolgar's delivery kept me on track.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I mentioned Life After Life in the Greedy Reading List Six Fascinating Second-Chance, Do-Over, Reliving-Life Stories.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Human Croquet are two other Kate Atkinson books I've enjoyed; she has also written the Jackson Brodie series and other books as well.