What If? Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

Like Coldplay’s “What If“, Life After Life‘s Ursula Todd against all odds endures, repeatedly.

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake
It could bend or it could break
That’s the risk that you take

  • BOOK-articleInline copyTitle: Life After Life
  • Author: Kate Atkinson
  • ISBN: 0316176486 (ISBN13: 9780316176484)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: January 7, 2014 by Anchor Canada
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Genre/s: Literary Fiction
  • Source: Publisher
  • Rating: B+

Viscerally illuminating, Life After Life brings the age old question of “What If” to a whole new level. Imagine Groundhog Day although sadly without the comedic influence of Bill Murray, Life After Life explores the myriad of possibilities that could arise from choosing the road less traveled again and again.


On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways.

Ursula Todd dies in a number of truly awful ways, making it actually quite difficult to read at times despite the skillful writing. Kate Atkinson was literally too accomplished at bringing the reader into the cold inhospitable world that Ursula when she isn’t dead occupies.

She had had affairs over the years … but she had never been pregnant, never been a mother or a wife and it was only when she realized that it was too late, that it could never be, that she understood what it was that she had lost. Pamela’s life would go on after she was dead, her descendants spreading through the world like the waters of a delta, but when Ursula died she would simply end. A stream that ran dry.

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

What I found particularly compelling about Life After Life was the suggestion of the depth of the impact one life could have. It was not just an exploration of the various incarnations Ursula’s life manifested but the allusion that her existence created a ripple effect impacting an almost an infinite number of scenarios.

_AC_4599.jpgKate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since. Kate’s latest novel, Life After Lifewas published in January 2013 to much acclaim and went on to win both the 2013 Costa Novel Award and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature, and was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.



Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review.


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