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Editor reviews

Life After Life is the latest release audiobook by master of contemporary fiction, Kate Atkinson and narrated by English actress Fenella Woolgar. The story follows that of Ursula who is given infinite chances at life. Most would believe that the value of life would be lost should the chances to live it were endless but it is with this profound gift that Ursula sees how desperate the need is to protect Earth from human destruction. This is a story that is so cleverly constructed in its plot and deep in its meaning you will be enchanted from the opening words. Available now from Audible.

Summary

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

©2013 Kate Atkinson (P)2013 Random House Audiobooks

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Intriguing story of "what ifs"

Kate Atkinson is such an imaginative writer and has again produced an intriguing, multi-layered story that explores different scenarios for the characters that pivot on a single event or choice in their lives that leads to quite different outcomes. There's an undercurrent of mysticism over the possibility of re-incarnation and the notion that time is fluid such that the past and future can intrude into the present.

The narrative switches back and forth in time from 1910 to 1967. You might think that this would be confusing in an audio book, but this is not the case: The time periods are clearly sign-posted and the characters seem so familiar that one remembers what happened to them in the other scenarios. The book is rich in period detail, particularly those during the Second World War. I was sorry when the book finished as I had felt so absorbed by the characters lives and made to think about how ones life can change direction in an instant.
The narrator is very good.

56 of 58 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • susan
  • wolverhampton, United Kingdom
  • 02-05-13

Intriguing story, beautifully told.

This was my first Kate Atkinson book, and I shall certainly seek out others. The narrative, though fractured is gripping, and the fluent style is reminiscent of Elisabeth Jane Howard
at her best.
I agree that it seemed to lose its way a little toward the end, and would the pedantic Ursula really misuse the term 'beg the question' ?

Despite these niggles, I have become a fan of this author, and of Fenella Woolgar's superb narration.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Pj
  • Leicester
  • 09-04-13

Superbly written and superbly read.

There are times when a book takes your breath away - the originality of the story line and the quality of the writing work together to bring the reader something wonderful. That is what Kate Atkinson has done with her latest novel. How often have we asked the question 'what would have happened if...?' - Ms Atkinson has taken that idea and constructed something marvelous with it. The reading too is excellent, Fenella Woolgar added an extra dimension to what is an excellent novel. Her characterisation was superb, and her wonderful modulation kept me spellbound. I could not stop listening. I loved it all.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • T
  • 20-03-13

A satisfying trip through sliding doors

I've enjoyed a number of Kate A's books, includding all the unabridged ones on audible, and think this is my new favourite. Well written and narrated, it covers a period from 1910 until post-war, returning time and again to reconsider events and what might have been. Parallel worlds of personal history? The path/s taken/not taken? Deja vu is given an intriguing viewpoint through moving portraits of people locked together by family and circumstance. I loved it!

35 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Gripping, original, fantastic

Have read all of Kate Atkinson's books and this has to be her best. I'd never voluntarily listen to /read any WW2 books. But this......stunning and evocative.
Great characters, fascinating plot, gripped from start to finish.
Imagine The Time Travelers Wife crossed with Sarah Waters The Night Watch.
And them some. 5 star.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Facinating

Kate Atkinson does not disappoint with this story where the main character has several opportunities to relive her life. The story is in true Atkinson style with lots of twists and turns and the narrator's voice is very soothing.If you have enjoyed this author's other novels, you should enjoy this.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

28 chapters to go and I give up

The concept is interesting, and this book came highly recommended by people who had read it. As I have difficulty reading, I listen to audio books and this is the first one I have given up on.
The reading is monotone and it is difficult to tell the difference between one chapter and the next, and each section of the story.
For me, it was dull and had no life in it.
Extremely disappointing.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • CF
  • 28-03-17

Interesting but slow

I generally enjoyed this story but it was very slow to start. Also, the concept is interesting but it ultimately doesn't seem to go anywhere.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Judy
  • Bristol, United Kingdom
  • 18-04-13

not sure

The reader was brilliant. She captured the voice of the era perfectly and brought the characters to life.

The story was clever, the idea of being born again and again until you got it right, was fascinating.

It is the first time I have read about war torn London, usually avoid war stories, but this was beautifully done and very evocative.

It all worked very well .. until the end. Then, I'm just not sure. It wasn't what I expected and I don't feel I understood anymore. I may go back and re-listen to the end and see if I can understand it better. It sort of ..flopped. But the rest of the book was terrific.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Beautifully read

I really enjoyed it, and thought Fenella Woolgar has the perfect voice (she has an amazing range and can do male, female and child's voices very convincingly). My only criticism is that it was over-long.... about 45 minutes before the end I was thinking "ok,.. I think we've finally got there"... and we hadn't. But in general I'd certainly recommend it.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Chrissie
  • 22-04-13

A puzzle - is it worth the effort?

If you could live your life over time and time again, would you/ could you ever get it right? That is the central question of this book. The next question posed is if this ability to relive your life would be a gift or a curse. This is a book of fantasy and historical fiction. It poses philosophical questions concerning how life should be lived.

Atkinson's writing is clever, both the questions she poses and her ironic, satirical, sarcastic and often sardonic humor. Don't expect good-natured laughs based on happiness. It is solely because of the writing that I have chosen three rather than only two stars.

The book is confusing. Not only does the reader jump back and forth in time but also into different versions of the same story, the point being that there is not just one story. The stories overlap at points only to later go off in different directions. The reader must continually figure out if they have been dropped into a different version or a different time period of an earlier version. In addition, many characters are not introduced. When they are first mentioned you have not the slightest idea who they are.

By the end everything is interwoven. Picture a twine of yarn that is split at several points, each strand going off in different directions. The reader hops back and forth to different segments. Is there one "correct" ending? Is there one preferable ending? Is it possible to choose the final destination? Most importantly, what is the message of the book? Was the message worth the confusion? In my view, the answer is no.

I thought the author magnificently described life in London both during the Blitz and after the war. I enjoyed the segment set in Obersalzberg, at Hitler's residence Berghof, near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany, meeting up with Eva Braun. This IS a book of historical fiction. Events of both WW1 and WW2 are covered.

The audiobook narration by Fenella Woolgar was exemplary. Irish, British, American and French accents are all perfectly executed. I believe the audio version further enhances how people of different cultures "think".

You must keep a paper and pen nearby to jot down the date of the episode you are listening to. In addition, I recommend you read this book quickly; if you read a little each day you are sure to get lost! Good Luck!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Julie
  • 25-05-13

Intriguing and fascinating

I think this is my absolute favourite Kate Atkinson. What are the pivotal episodes in our lives that alter everything to come? Who can determine the purpose in their own life? An absolute thought provoking narrative.
Excellently performed by Fenella Woolgar

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Heather
  • 29-11-14

A mind altering book

What made the experience of listening to Life After Life the most enjoyable?

The trick to this book is to stay with it. It is 1910 and snow is falling and life starts. And starts again.Kate Atkinson is simply one of the finest writers today. This book is a literary wonder - earthed by beautiful characters and a solid English country home - and yet delving into the questions of life and time and choice. World War Two vividly evoked. Ethereal and captivating. Don't miss it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Suzanne
  • 13-07-14

I REALLY enjoyed this

What did you love best about Life After Life?

It's such a creative story! The characters were so easy to attach to and the reader has such talent for telling the story, not just reading.

What other book might you compare Life After Life to and why?

It's such a creative story. I can't compare it to anything because I've never read/listened to another story quite like it.

Have you listened to any of Fenella Woolgar’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I had not listened to Fenella before but her voice is so fantastic for audio books that I will definately be looking out for more of her books.

If you could take any character from Life After Life out to dinner, who would it be and why?

This is a hard one. I'm tossing up between Ursula and Izzy. Izzy would be highly entertaining, but Ursula would the character I would be most interested in chatting to.

Any additional comments?

Thank you to the author for such an entertaining story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Shevaun
  • 14-01-14

Mesmerising!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The story draws you in from the very start. Over and over the story is retold and the path of her life is rewritten. It's gentle and sad, uplifting and wistful. I really enjoyed it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susannah
  • 24-06-13

Hurry up and write a new book please Kate...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, but I am biased...I love any book by Kate Atkinson.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Life After Life?

The bomb scene in the London townhouse when the baby is found...

What does Fenella Woolgar bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Audible books come to life with a brilliant narrator...

If you could take any character from Life After Life out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Silvie - as long as we could have dinner at Fox Corner as I would love to visit that house.

Any additional comments?

LIke I said, please write another book soon Kate Atkinson.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • EssDee
  • 30-05-13

Stunning story and performance - Missing it!

What other book might you compare Life After Life to and why?

One Day, The Last Letter from Your Lover

Have you listened to any of Fenella Woolgar’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, she's new to me, but I'll be looking into her other performances.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I never wanted to reach my destination in the car and turn it off. I miss it since I finished listening.

Any additional comments?

I've recommended this to my friends. I just loved it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mark Fletcher
  • 19-10-16

Wonderful.

The combination of magical realism and a family narrative works fantastically work. Each live relived presents different dramas, joys and sorrows, such that by the end you feel you have inhabited a life with all its possible outcomes. Totally satisfying.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan Copas
  • 07-08-15

Extraordinary

Fenella"s extraordinarily gifted talent for narration brought life after life to life again and again

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jessica trusler
  • 12-06-15

Superb rendition of life after life

Brilliantly read - a great way to listen to Kate Atkinson - one of her best books - I loved it!