Life after Life, Kate Atkinson

(74 Posts)
LadyBeagleEyes Wed 20-Mar-13 19:45:31

I advanced ordered this for my kindle, which I left on the bus and have yet to retrieve from the bus station.
So has anyone read it yet?
It seems like it's going back to her first books pre Jackson Brodie and I can't wait to read it.

SpeedwellBlue Mon 02-Jun-14 01:34:39

Just finished this. Someone asked what broke in Hugh and Sylvie's marriage and caused them to be increasingly snappy with each other. Wasn't this mentioned by Ursula's sister Pamela in the life when Ursula was in the abusive marriage to Derek? I thought at the time I read it that Hugh's love for Sylvie had died a bit when he saw how appallingly heartless she was to Ursula over the abortion and not having remained intact (as she puts it). Ursula says in that life after the abortion that Sylvie had loved her but now she didn't and I thought maybe Hugh's love for Sylvie died alongside it. Also when Nancy is killed Sylvie makes a comment suggesting it's their mother's fault for letting her daughters roam around and Hugh says something like "Oh Sylvie, where is your heart? " I think those circumstances show him a side to Sylvie that might not have been so apparent in the lives where she avoids the rape and Nancy's death.

mewkins Sat 24-Aug-13 09:27:03

I loved it and am a huge KA fan anyway. Agree that it's more similar to Behind the Scenes. Aside from the wonderful characters (she does Hugh and Sylvie so well -wonder what her parents are like!) I just love the attention to detail and it must have taken a huge amount of research. And the blitz accounts really draw you in.
I also think the different scenes illustrate that yes, you can change things to an extent but that to an extent there are elements out of an individual's controle. Eg the Hitler scenes that were thrown in there. Did I imagine it or was there reference to some of his cronies? Si she could assassinate Hitler but there was someone waiting in the wings who would wreak just as much carnage anyway?
I would love to see an account by Teddy too.

I'm reading this at the moment, and really enjoying it. Found the first few chapters hard to read (because of the sadness of the subject matter, not the confusing structure, although that took a little getting used to as well). I think it's my favourite KA book since BTSATM, due to the richness and general likeability of the characters.

I'm about 50 pages from the end (iPhone pages anyway) so i haven't read this thread very closely in case of spoilers grin. But I'll be back.

PseudoBadger Mon 05-Aug-13 23:07:55

I just finished Life After Life after an intensive weekend reading session. I loved the two particularly difficult loops that Ursula has to try so hard to get out of (Spanish Flu "Darkness, and so on", and Argyll Road which becomes so sad by the final time). Teddy is just wonderful.

LatinForTelly Fri 02-Aug-13 11:14:32

Ha ha, I keep coming back to this thread grin.

Bue, the details of the book are starting to fade a bit for me now, but I think some of the flatness is the futility of the always-replayed lives, even when Ursula gets it mostly right. (Ie the last life, Teddy survives, Nancy survives, and yet, it still goes back to the beginning. ) I think it's supposed to feel a bit bleak and futile, maybe? I felt it was anyway.

alpinemeadow I didn't really pick up on the headaches carrying through her lives. Could it be just all the noise in her head from experiences carried over from different lives?

(Incidentally, one of my favourite lines is when she stops them all getting Spanish flu by inventing the maid's sweetheart being unfaithful, then says something like 'well at least no-one got pushed down the stairs' and then they all look at her like hmm confused.

I agree with you about seemingly significant events that then don't crop again. In one life she meets a woman by a water pump in London during the war, and it feels like a connection, and that this woman will play a bigger part in another life. But no, we don't hear of her again. Do you think it, again, is just noise? ie Ursula has mixed-up half experiences from many lives going round in her head, and sometimes they get a bit confused. Don't really know tbh.

I loved this book Bue (can you tell wink?) but I also loved When Will There be Good News, despite the fairly dark subject matter. I loved the self-possession and competence of Joanna Hunter and the cinematic ending (don't want to spoil) of her exit at the derelict house with her baby. I loved Reggie's innate intelligence. And Louise's messed-up attitude to love. Could go on and on . . . !

Bue Thu 01-Aug-13 18:54:23

Just finished this. Fell very flat for me at the end. DH always says I don't 'get' plots (sadly true!) so perhaps that was my problem, but I couldn't keep any of the lives straight or work out which was meant to be her 'true' life (if there even was one - I wanted there to be). I enjoyed the writing and the characters tremendously but honestly felt it would have read better as a straightforward story arc!

Wish she'd get back to Jackson Brodie, actually. I don't think any of her other novels have ever lived up to BTSATM.

alpinemeadow Wed 24-Jul-13 16:07:22

any afternoon readers (!) with a view on the 'head' question? - but don't read down to the next post if you haven't read the book yet! I am still intrigued...

alpinemeadow Tue 23-Jul-13 22:02:23

So, leaving a few blank lines so that anyone who hasn't read it can stop now:





what was the significance of her headaches - she seemed to get them in a number of different lives? Was it to show that many things about her remained the same - however differently life turned out (Germany in 1945, Hyde Park after retirement), some things were constant - getting headaches being one of them?

yes, i think Sylvia was doing the same thing - towards the beginning the author says that Sylvia did know a hotel (Imperial in Austria? can't remember) that someone else mentioned, but didn't say so. At least I think that happens, though haven't gone back to check. We never hear of her going to the Imperial in these lives, so.... And also there is that strange scene when Ursula spots her in Knightsbridge with another man, which is never referred to again.

Snugglepiggy Wed 19-Jun-13 21:02:04

Meant to say having decided not deceived !

Snugglepiggy Wed 19-Jun-13 16:32:30

Another confused one her who although I couldn't understand the ambiguity of it just loved it from start to finish.Something about KAs style of prose draws me into all of her books,and I completely lost myself in an almost dreamlike state whilst reading it.The closest thing to time travel I'm likely to experience!
Just finished it quietly now out in a quiet corner of the garden having deceived to abandon all jobs for an hour and just immerse myself in it and feel bereft now.Will certainly re-read Behind the Scenes now as it's been on my mind to do that previously.

maureen1300 Fri 14-Jun-13 20:08:14

Really loved this book, but was also confused by the ending, first I thought she had killed Hitler and for some reason Teddy knew this and was saying thank you..........I think Teddy was alive the whole time, I have to go back and reread this it though, maybe I'll gain more understanding.......

jammietart Fri 14-Jun-13 11:45:18

Another who loved the book but was confused by the ending. But I've let it slightly wash over me and my overall view is she kept going until she got it right-ish but wasn't able to influence whole world events (like no WW2) just outcomes (Teddy's death) iyswim. The piece where she kills Frieda was devastating.

SkaterGrrrrl Fri 14-Jun-13 03:40:37

Eek drowning not frowning

or nor ir.

Typing on phone at 4am while BFing baby, sorry.

SkaterGrrrrl Fri 14-Jun-13 03:38:02

I loved this but wish I could have read it I one ir 2 sittings. With a baby and a 2 year old I ended up reading a page here and a page there.

I wondered if perhaps Izzies baby grows up to be a German soldier who kills Teddy... so Rolands being kept by the family and the frowning saves Teddys life?

The Blitz stuff was fantastic and reminded me of Sarah Waters Nightwatch.

Overall my favourite KA since Behins the Scenes ATM.

MrsCampbellBlack Sat 08-Jun-13 20:44:57

I've just finished this book and loved it. She writes so incredibly movingly and the second world war stuff was fascinating.

I loved Hugh and would like to have known more about his marriage to Sylvie. Who was she with that day that Ursula saw her in London? What went wrong at the end that they were increasingly snappy with each other.

So many questions unanswered but that's what I love about her writing.

LatinForTelly Sat 01-Jun-13 22:10:25

I've always thought she was quite literary, but she is so light-handed in her intelligence. When will there be good news had loads of literary allusions in it (probably loads more that I missed!), just thrown in, thrown away.

I love her writing (can you tell?!). Her plots are great - fantastical admittedly - and her characters memorable, yet believable. And she's jokey and slightly cynical. Fab writer.

chocolatebuttiiins Thu 30-May-13 23:18:07

This was the first book I've read on my new birthday kindle. Am so appreciative of the comments about flicking, because this was a book I really would have liked to do some flicking with and I thought I was being dim at not being about to flick back and forth on kindle. Turns out you can't.

Is it just me or is this book a great deal more literary than the rest of her books? Was glad of the kindle for some of the references. Not that I mind that, I just marvel at how versatile she is. From Tracey in 'Started Early ...' to Ursula. I loved both of them but they are so different.

Mrsrobertduvall Tue 28-May-13 13:38:03

just finished it and although I got very confused, thought it was beautifully written. I love her humour which does permeate despite truly awful scenes.
And my dad was in Bomber Command and flew Halifaxes, so I had a special soft spot for Teddy.

K8tyd Sat 25-May-13 10:11:05

Thank you everyone. I've just returned from seeing KA at the Sydney Writers Festival and while I absolutely loved the book, I was also confused about Teddy at the end. I wanted to ask her about it but thought it might be rude. Came home and after some googling found you guys and feel I now have a better grasp of the ending!!

gailforce1 Wed 22-May-13 15:45:32

Thank you GeraldineMumsnet, I only discovered KA because of MN along with many other authors and books.
DewDr0p I had to wait a long time for my copy from the library but they do order more copies if lots of people place reservations so I hope that yours will too!

DewDr0p Wed 22-May-13 11:04:24

I love KA. Just checked my local totally useless library and the estimated wait to get this book is 3073 days!!!

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 22-May-13 11:00:17

gailforce1

Really enjoy KA's writing. Perhaps this could be a MN bookclub book when it comes out in paperback? Tilly are you around...?!

hi gailforce1, will flag for Tilly. Have you seen this?

gailforce1 Wed 22-May-13 10:05:54

Really enjoy KA's writing. Perhaps this could be a MN bookclub book when it comes out in paperback? Tilly are you around...?!

hackmum Sun 19-May-13 08:21:02

Latin (and Janey) - I think you're right about Ursula not being able to control everything.

I would love KA to come on for a webchat. We could ask her all these questions!

About Kindles - I am very devoted to my Kindle, but the flicking thing can be a major problem in any book that is long or complicated. I am currently reading I, Claudius, and there are so many characters, and they're all either related to each other or married to and then divorced from each other, and they often have similar names, so it's incredibly confusing. I would love to be able to flick back!

KittenofDoom Sat 18-May-13 19:19:53

This didn't really come off for me and I found it began to get tiresome about three quarters of the way through. Having got so far I might as well finish it, but it all seemed a bit unresolved. There could have been a lot more variations in Ursula's world, I thought - such as the one where Izzy's child was adopted into the family. Instead everything usually dragged on much the same.

Is it a mistake when Teddy looks at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and says something like "All those names". There are no names on the Cenotaph as any fule kno, but I wondered if it was a subtle reference to differences in that version of the world? Probably not, but she could have dropped in more touches like that.

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