Back to the Beginning

Life After Life.jpg

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
narrated by Fenella Woolgar

Method of consumption: Audiobook, then Hardcover

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Audio Rating: DNF

My experience with this book was much like the main character’s life.  I finished it and then went right back to the beginning.  Allow me to explain…

As you know, I typically prefer to begin novels without much prior knowledge of them.  With this story, that was a mistake!  I began listening to the audiobook with no idea what I was getting myself into.  Characters kept dying and then re-appearing.  Time was jumping around.  I couldn’t grasp what was going on!

Luckily, this is a book I already own – I was reading it because it was on my unread shelf – so I was able to easily switch over to a physical copy about 3 hours in (which translated to approximately 160 pages).  I found my spot, flipped back a bit, and started up again.  I found that it was easier to follow, but I still couldn’t quite understand what was happening.  Apparently I had missed some key information in those first 3 hours of listening…

It turns out that the main character, Ursula Todd, is reincarnated back into the same life each time she dies.  And in each new life, she brings with her some prior knowledge (though not explicitly) from her previous lives.  It’s more like a feeling, an intuition, or déjà vu.  Luckily, my friend PJ had already read this book and was able to explain this to me.

Armed with this new knowledge, I powered through, though at 529 pages (that knocks out the “more than 500 pages” category on the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge!), it was tough.  I felt like I’d never finish, but once I did, I didn’t want it to end!  So I flipped right back to the beginning, and started all over again.  Well, up to the point where I’d originally began.

This book is so nuanced and subtly brilliant, I feel there are things I still will not pick up on, unless I truly do at least one more reading of it.  Perhaps someday I will.  But for now, I am contented to sit back and marvel at the work of art that is Life After Life.

Memorable Quotes

‘Hmm,’ Sylvie said, reluctant to argue with such strongly held views.

One day, of course, all this would be consigned to that same history, even the mountains – sand, after all, was the future of rocks.

‘We’re just cogs in a machine really, aren’t we?’ Miss Fawcett said to her and Ursula said, ‘But remember, without the cog there is no machine.’

‘I loved him so much.  Love him so much.  I don’t know why I use the past tense.  It’s not as if love dies with the beloved.’