Author: Kate Atkinson
Narrated by: Fenella Woolgar
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Listening copy via local library
The thing to remember with Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is that it is a character driven story, not plot driven.
Don't expect the traditional three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end. Don't expect linear storytelling where plot point A leads to plot point B. Because that's not what Life After Life is about.
Life After Life is the story of Ursula Todd, a girl born during a snow storm in 1910 England, only to die and live and die again. And again. And again. Ad infinitum. But this isn't reincarnation where she comes back as other people. She always comes back as Ursula Todd, a girl born during a snow storm in 1910 England.
But Life After Life is really about choices. Random choices that haunt us, deliberate choices that don't succeed, choices that others make for us that we may not be aware of. Choices that make up a life.
Kate Atkinson pursues these choices through Ursula, putting her during a time of great change. The key to Atkinson's storytelling is repetition. We see the same moments in Ursula's life, sometimes with a slight alteration here or there, sometimes significantly different. But mostly the same.
And I have to admit, if Fenella Woolgar didn't do such a beautiful job narrating, I might have given up on the book. She's able to capture a range of genders, ages, and accents, and really bring the characters to life. Enough that I cared about the characters to keep on going to the end.
I did realize about three-fours through that there was no endgame to Ursula's life. She would never get it "right" and this would be her final life. Once I stopped expecting that, it did make the whole experience more enjoyable.
Life After Life is not a novel for everyone, although I think that those who gave up on the print version should give the audiobook a try.
Life After Life Book Trailer: