Books

Life After Life

Life After Life is a book by Kate Atkinson.

Kate Atkinson

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. (From Doubleday Canada)

Kate Atkinson is an English novelist and playwright. Her bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie were adapted for the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. She has won the Costa Novel Award twice, for Life After Life and for her subsequent novel, A God in Ruins

From the book

11 February 1910

An icy rush of air, a freezing slipstream on the newly exposed skin. She is, with no warning, outside the inside and the familiar wet, tropical world has suddenly evaporated. Exposed to the elements. A prawn peeled, a nut shelled.

No breath. All the world come down to this. One breath.

Little lungs, like dragonfly wings failing to inflate in the foreign atmosphere. No wind in the strangled pipe. The buzzing of a thou­sand bees in the tiny curled pearl of an ear.

Panic. The drowning girl, the falling bird.

Dr. Fellowes should have been here," Sylvie moaned. "Why isn't he here yet? Where is he?" Big dewdrop pearls of sweat on her skin, a horse nearing the end of a hard race. The bedroom fire stoked like a ship's furnace. The thick brocade curtains drawn tightly against the enemy, the night. The black bat.

"Yer man'll be stuck in the snow, I expect, ma'am. It's sure dreadful wild out there. The road will be closed."

Sylvie and Bridget were alone in their ordeal. Alice, the parlor maid, was visiting her sick mother. And Hugh, of course, was chas­ing down Isobel, his wild goose of a sister, à Paris. Sylvie had no wish to involve Mrs. Glover, snoring in her attic room like a truf­fling hog. Sylvie imagined she would conduct proceedings like a parade-ground sergeant major. The baby was early. Sylvie was expecting it to be late like the others. The best-laid plans, and so on.


From Life After Life by Kate Atkinson ©2014. Published by Anchor Canada.

Interviews with Kate Atkinson

The British writer spoke with Eleanor Wachtel onstage at Harbourfront in Toronto. 51:48
The first of Kate Atkinson's ten novels, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, catapulted her to literary fame. Her latest, Transcription, is set in the early days of the Second World War. The heroine is an 18-year-old girl who has been recruited by MI5 for a covert operation. It touches on the grand themes of betrayal, loyalty, patriotism and fear. 25:57

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