Life After Life

By Kate Atkinson,

Book cover of Life After Life

Book description

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd…

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Why read it?

15 authors picked Life After Life as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors, with a voice that really resonates with me.

This is a ‘what if’ novel that really sets you thinking. It’s witty and stylish, and yet it also tugs at your heartstrings. A roller-coaster ride that had me on the edge of my seat.

From Tessa's list on WW2 novels featuring loners we love.

If ever there was a novel that deserved to be called a “tour de force,” this is it.

Atkinson’s heroine Ursula Todd dies and is reborn in several parallel existences that reflect how the smallest choices can alter the arc of a life and even the course of history itself. The novel opens with Ursula assassinating Hitler and then plunges her backward and forward in time through two world wars, ending in the 1960s.

This book began like a narrative poem with a constant, urgent refrain from a soul born and lost in infancy then later in childhood and again in young adulthood.

A soul born and lost, over and over, until finally, she manages to push her way into this world and survive. A soul with a mission from beyond whose urgency is immediate and critical. A mission that simply could not wait for another time, because without it, time itself was at risk.

For me, Life After Life is a book of significant genius. It represents Deus ex Machina—the hand of…

From Rea's list on contemporary visionary fiction.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

Book cover of The Road from Belhaven

Margot Livesey Author Of The Road from Belhaven

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Secret orphan Professor Scottish Novelist

Margot's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Road from Belhaven is set in 1880s Scotland. Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small girl that she can see the future. But she soon realises that she must keep her gift a secret. While she can sometimes glimpse the future, she can never change it.

Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her never told her that the touch of a hand can change everything? When she follows Louis to Glasgow, she begins to learn the limits of his devotion and the complexities of her own affections.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late-nineteenth-century Scotland

Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective—she doesn’t, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her “pictures” foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but…


Kate Atkinson must be my favourite author (up there with Jane Austen).

I highly recommend all and any of her novels as her characters are all at odds with the world. She writes strong women well, (even in her tales of P.I. Jackson Brody).

Her stunning novel Life After Life is not only structured around the different parallel lives of her main character Ursula growing up before and then during WWII, but also because it tackles that age-old question i.e. ‘If you could go back in time would you kill Hitler?’

Ursula Todd is a wonderful main character and the…

This story is about an upper-middle-class English family who is caught up in the events of WW2. The domestic details are fascinating including the kinds of puddings served. (I love puddings). Where this story differs is that Ursula, the heroine, has to keep reliving parts of her life until she ‘gets it right’. I could not stop thinking about Ursula for a long time. I was so impressed by how the story did not follow any normal pattern but demonstrated the power and flexibility wielded by the author. Kate Atkinson also attached a Pinterest page to her website. The visuals…

From Maureen's list on how magic can change your life.

Amongst my favourite books—in my top twenty perhaps—Life After Life is a sweeping drama that spans both World Wars and centres on Ursula, a girl who grows up in a lively dynamic family, as world events spin around her. The book asks the question what if we could have more than one chance at life? How would the world change if we hadn’t been born? Structurally complex, Life After Life is so well written it draws you along and absorbs you with its wonderful characterization of Ursula and her family, so much so that you fully accept the alternative…

Ursula Todd first dies at birth on Feb. 11, 1910, when a snowstorm in the English countryside delays the doctor. But in this looping story of second chances and altered outcomes, the rule-breaking narrative rewinds, and she survives the birth thanks to the doctor’s timely arrival. A few years later, she dies again. And again and again, only to be each time re-spawned, like a video game player with a vague awareness of the need to make better choices next time. Kate Atkinson’s wildly ambitious novel full of endless failures and rebirths illustrates how small decisions can dramatically affect our…

From Jeff's list on questioning the nature of reality.

A clever, playful, moving novel that is not strictly about civilians in war, but which has their experiences at its heart. It tells and retells the lives of Ursula Todd, whose life begins again each time she dies. In several of these lives Ursula volunteers as an Air Raid Warden in blitzed London, and in another, she (having married unwisely to a German man in the 1930s) tries to keep her daughter alive in a devastated Berlin.  ‘Spanish Flu’ repeatedly devastates Ursula’s family, reminding us that victims of the pandemic were among the dead of war. Atkinson clearly spent time…

From Lucy's list on civilians in war.

The premise of this novel is the variety of different ways that a single life can turn out—assuming it survives its own birth, that is. This isn't initially the case for the main character Ursula Todd who, in the first version of her life at least, is stillborn. Her life repeats itself again and again, however, ending suddenly and then restarting, to unfold with sometimes minor and sometimes major changes. As a writer, I get a headache just imagining the level of planning required to construct such an intricate novel, but Atkinson does it perfectly. The scenes about the Spanish…

Is this book about Time-Travel or Dimension-Jumping? Or about someone who’s freakishly aware of their rebirth into numerous lives? I don’t know— but I do know that it’s a breathtakingly audacious, witty, intelligent, brilliant book.

It recounts the life of Ursula Todd, born in 1910. She then lives, well, Life After Life. Some are very short: she is still-born or drowns as a child. Others, as she seems to cycle through almost every life it is possible for her to have lived, involve considerable suffering. She becomes dimly aware of these numerous lives and learns, to an extent, to…

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