Published by Little, Brown on 2013-04-02
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Am I the last person on Earth to read Life After Life? It certainly feels like it. Honestly, I caught my copy late and by the time I was ready to read the hype machine was in full force. I wanted to wait it out so my opinion wouldn’t be skewed, which I think ended up being a wise decision.
As I was marking Life After Life read on Goodreads and gathering thoughts for a review, I noticed a few things about the book’s page. First, a huge number of my Goodreads friends had read the novel, but beyond that…the ratings were all over the board. Of 25 Goodreads friends who read Life After Life, feelings ranged from a few who were unable to finish the book to several with five stars, some calling it the best book of the year.
Rather than throwing another vague, spoiler-free review onto the pile, I thought it might be interesting to discuss what seem to be some of the major points of divergence in the opinions. I’ll pose a few questions, give my answers and you can feel free to do the same (though I use the Disqus comment system, you do not have to sign in/create an account just to comment – you can participate as a guest by entering your name).
If it just so happens that I’m not the last person to read this book and you haven’t yet read Life After Life, sadly, the post will be filled with spoilers below the cut and in the comments.
- One of the biggest complaints I see about Life After Life is that the very nature of the book, regularly starting life over, becomes repetitive. How did you feel about how Atkinson handled Ursula’s repeated life cycles?
- How did you feel about the inclusion of the Eva Braun/Hitler plotline?
- Re-living life in an attempt to make it right is a device that has been used in multiple books and movies. Did Atkinson have anything new to offer? Did that make a difference in your reading experience?
- What did you take from Atkinson ending the book with Mrs. Haddock in the pub?
- What else drew you in or turned you off while reading the book?
- One of the major reasons I waited so long to start reading Life After Life was the fear that the cyclical lives and long length would make for a daunting read. I was pleasantly surprised by how clearly Atkinson marked Ursula’s births and deaths as well as the fairly smooth transitions she made from birth to adulthood in subsequent lives to avoid a feeling of repetitiveness.
- Though I really enjoyed the novel, the inclusion of the Eva Braun/Hitler plotline is the one thing holding it at really good instead of great for me. I think what bothered me the most was the use in the opening chapter as catch, though they have little to do with most of the novel. Once settled into the book several hundred pages later, their appearance felt like odd, historical name-dropping rather than the right fit.
- I don’t think I was really looking for Atkinson to add a new dimension to this type of book, though I do think she dropped a few hints that other family members might have had Ursula’s same ability. Did anyone else get that sense?
- Mrs. Haddock in the pub is one thing I’m still totally lost on, so I’m curious what everyone else thinks!
- Did you know I like big, epic family novels? I do. I should have known from the start this one would suck me in.