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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.

edam Tue 09-Apr-13 22:42:10

oh no! I really like Jackson. #bringbackbrodie

FreddoBaggyMac Thu 11-Apr-13 20:21:00

I'd rather she did more stuff like this than Jackson Brodie personally... I love the idea of a book from Teddy's perspective. I have the feeling that in the final life we read about Ursula is fully aware of the multiple lives she's lived and confided in Teddy, perhaps he's living multiple lives as well... that really would give scope for many confusing scenarios!

Auntlinny Fri 12-Apr-13 22:06:52

Loved this book. Amazing wartime sections and the little Spanish flu groove was very thought provoking. Written with KAs usual lightness of touch.

chicaguapa Sat 13-Apr-13 12:44:10

Did anyone else wonder if Izzie's son was Hitler? Not sure if that works, but I thought Roland was a bit random and always wondered why her son was adopted in Germany for purposes of the story. confused

SchnitzelVonKrumm Sat 13-Apr-13 14:55:30


Re-read and still think the ending is confusing, as how would Teddy know if she had saved Nancy or tweaked his fate? Could he perhaps also have started remembering past lives? Didn't understand the sudden appearance of Roland either, or the suggestion in the second iteration that Ursula had foregone marrying Juergen and having Frieda rather than just leaving Germany before the war. Would LOVE Teddy's view please Kate!

FunnyLittleFrog Sat 13-Apr-13 15:07:24

Avoiding spoilers!

I am about to start reading this, very excited. I have read everything she has written and like Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Human Croquet best. Also adored her collection of short stories, especially the one about the nanny and the little boy.

Will be back when I have finished reading.

Roseformeplease Sat 13-Apr-13 17:29:58

Just finished it. Another one who doesn't really get the ending but is feeling totally bereft now I have finished it.

Roseformeplease Sat 13-Apr-13 17:31:22

Also, in the final life, do we assume that she DID kill Hitler and so, while there was still a war, it was less brutal and Teddy escaped this time? Or is it that she finally saves Teddy and Nancy who really matter?

hackmum Sat 13-Apr-13 17:53:31

Rose - I wondered that too. In a way I'm glad that other people are puzzled (not just me being stupid) but on the other hand I was hoping someone might explain it all to me! You see, I tend to think that Teddy was alive all along, but it was only in the last life that she lived long enough to see him again. (Or am I misremembering? Is there one where she lives till the 1960s? Am already forgetting bits.) But surely surely there has to be a clue as to what happens to Izzy's son - it seemed so significant that he ended up in Germany in most of the lives and yet that just fizzled out. (In the long German section I thought it might turn out that he was the man Ursula married.)

Roseformeplease Sat 13-Apr-13 20:19:11

Agree, hackmum, I felt the German connection for his adoption was going to be some sort of link when she went there. Also, we weren't told the child's sex so I had initially wondered if the child was one of the family of girls she goes to stay with, or Eva?

I think she does just live long enough to see him but is he alive rather than dead because the person who witnessed his plane crash was so sure he died?

Also, who killed Nancy and Angela? The mystery was only resolved with a limping man, but we were never told who he was. Was he just another victim of war?

Also, when Izzy fled to California with a famous playwright, they were described as "the Cowards". Did you take it to mean she had married Noel Coward?

So many questions....

SchnitzelVonKrumm Sat 13-Apr-13 22:34:24

Izzy's child can't be Hitler, he would be 20 years too young.

Dunlurking Thu 18-Apr-13 13:23:50

Waterstones have their own edition of Life after Life with an interview/questions answer section with Kate Atkinson at the end of the book. Can't quite remember was trying to avoid being moved on from my blatant reading everything she says in it but she definitely refers to Teddy being grateful to Ursula at the end, but doesn't explain what for.

hackmum you are right about there being one incarnation where Ursula lives into the 60s - and Teddy definitely died in that one as Kate mentions something about that as well. Will have to return to my shifty behaviour seek out another Waterstones to reread the interview...

Oh and I see this book is a hot favourite on the Women's prize shortlist...

hackmum Thu 18-Apr-13 17:30:00

I do hope it wins the Women's prize - I love BUTB, but it's already won two major prizes so it would be nice to see Atkinson get it.

Rose - was Cowards with a capital C? I assumed it just meant that they were cowards for not sticking out the war.

LadyMountbatten Sun 21-Apr-13 22:49:51

I'm hating it so far. Does it improve ?

Cherrypi Tue 23-Apr-13 17:01:35

Yes ladymountbatten. Spoiler alert

Is Sylvie going through the same thing and that's why she had the scissors?

Roseformeplease Tue 23-Apr-13 17:03:11

Not sure about the capital but, as Noel Coward was a failed screenwriter, I felt it was a good joke.

ExcuseTypos Tue 23-Apr-13 17:07:19

I'm starting this tonight. Can't wait.

Behind The Scenes At The Museum is my favourite of hers, so am glad to read it's her best since that book.

tangledupinpoo Mon 29-Apr-13 21:55:51


Just finished and hugely enjoyed this. And then immediately came to this thread to see what other people who've read it thought it meant at the end grin.

It's quite ambiguous isn't it?

Dunlurking, the two shooting scenes are slightly different. She has different cake and in one, Hitler is with a blonde woman. And, as you say, they are dated differently.

I took it to mean that she tried to stop the war by shooting Hitler in two (or more) lives, but it didn't work, as you say, because she was then shot.

I took Teddy's survival to be a random quirk in one of the lives. Almost everything was the same, but he just managed to eject in time. Like the psychiatrist's son being killed and then not existing at all in a later life. So the book was maybe saying that every life has kinks and turns that sometimes lead to nothing, sometimes to unexpectedly profound consequences.

But the very sad bit, in the very last chapter, how I interpreted it anyway, was that it still all goes back to the beginning, and she has to live another life. And another . . . .

Is this all nonsense?! I did read it very slowly, and wrapped around another book. I'd like to read it again all in one go, quickly. Am I way off anyone else's mark?

ChloeR32 Tue 30-Apr-13 10:53:37

Behind the times here! just got it for Kindle. I love having a back up of books to read. Thanks!

Dunlurking Sat 04-May-13 12:44:51

tangledupinpoo it's interesting that you've used the words "random quirk". If I think about the lives as more random then it makes more sense. I was trying to think why those 2 scenes with Hitler were or weren't the same. What the significance was. Maybe there doesn't have to be any significance? I guess I thought she was progressing through her lives putting more and more intent into them to improve the outcomes - either for her or others. That seems to work where Teddy is concerned, but not Hitler. Indcidentally I went back to waterstones for another read through of the interview with Kate at the back of their edition and she actually gives the book she is planning from Teddy's point of view a title (but I've forgotten it!)

Don't know if anyone else has read the YA book by Lauren Oliver called Before I Fall where a teenage girl lives the last day of her life over and over in a version of Groundhog Day. I loved it.

LividDil Sat 04-May-13 23:50:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hackmum Sun 05-May-13 11:12:02

Good point, Livid, I think you may be right. And thanks to Tangled for pointing out that the two Hitler scenes are different - I hadn't noticed that. (One disadvantage of the Kindle is that it's hard to flick back and forth.)

LatinForTelly Mon 06-May-13 17:57:07

Hi, it's tangled here, having name-changed. I think you're right, Dunlurking, she does try to get things progressively more 'right' with each life, once she works it out. It is mostly not random - hence I suppose Nancy's survival.

But how Teddy's survival was described, it just seemed so similar to when he died; the only difference was that one of the guys in the plane with him managed to reach him to get him to eject, didn't he? (I am rubbish at remembering details.)

So this couldn't have been something that Ursula could have influenced?

I don't know, I'm probably barking up the wrong tree but I felt that KA was trying to show that no matter which choices we make, ie even if we could go back and make all the 'perfect' decisions, we can't control everything?

I didn't get the significance of the difference in the two cafe scenes, other than that it indicates she tried (at least) twice to shoot him. Might have to go back and reread both scenes!

Ooh hackmum, that's interesting to know about Kindles. I am a dreadful flicker in books!

Do you think KA would come back for a webchat, once it's been out a bit longer?

janey68 Sun 12-May-13 13:11:59

I'm also with the 'random quirks ' concept. I think it's the only way the book makes sense, because with each life ursula lives, the actions of other characters are also going to be different, because every time ursula change 'fate' (whether by saving someone, staying alive herself or whatever) then the future lives of all characters would be different too, only we don't get to know all the detail of them. The very fact that she prevents characters from dying means that there would be future relationships which wouldn't otherwise have existed

My perspective is that KA isn't so much trying to write a story where all the loose ends are tied up, it's more an exploration of her fascination with the possibilities of other lives. It was a fairly major theme on human croquet but has also been evident from her earlier writing - didn't ruby (in behind the scenes at the museum) say when her mother died that there was a feeling that they wished she could live her life again as a mother and do it better next time..

A webchat with KA would be fabulous I agree

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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