"Life After Life": Is it worth a read?


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"Life After Life": Is it worth a read?

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tammikuu 15, 2015, 11:23 pm

I've been following comments about this book on LT and elsewhere. It sounds like it requires Commitment (with a capital C). I'm beginning to feel that the novel falls into the "Important Book That's Really No Fun to Read" category.

If you've read it, what's your bottom line:

Not worth the effort?

Challenging but with a great payoff?


Muokkaaja: tammikuu 16, 2015, 11:31 am

Definitely worth it. It is post-modern, but not as challenging as most novels written in that style. It does take you a while to figure out what Atkinson is doing, or rather how she is doing what she is doing, even if you know the basic idea. Once you do "get it," the emotional impact builds. There is some cleverness and wit, some horror and some whimsy, and what she is saying appears to be as complex as what she is doing. Contrary to what many reviewers have said, there really is no redemptive story or character arc here. It is a satisfying read, without being hackneyed. Hard to see how she pulls it off.

I particularly liked her treatment of the life changing events particular to women's lives, and the depth and diversity of her women characters. I read it rather quickly out of curiosity and wish now that I had lingered over it more.

Read it.

tammikuu 16, 2015, 11:44 am

>1 nohrt4me2: Put me in the "worth it" camp. I didn't find it challenging other than I was challenged to read closely, but I very much enjoy books that play with narrative conventions in an interesting way. Some of the WWII sections are definitely harrowing. This is one of those books that stayed with me long after reading it. I still think about it quite a lot, and it's been over a year since I've read it!

tammikuu 16, 2015, 12:27 pm

I loved Life After Life, didn't find it challenging at all, and didn't feel I had to bolster up any sense of commitment. I flew through it in a couple of days. One of the better books I read last year.

tammikuu 16, 2015, 12:50 pm

Hopping on board the "read it" train. I loved it. I know I liked Atkinson's style before I started, so that may have helped. But, mostly it was just a really good read. I flew through it as well. Her description of the Blitz were so real to me as I read. One of those books that continue to pop into my mind from time to time.

tammikuu 16, 2015, 1:59 pm

I liked it quite a bit and didn't find it challenging. Interesting and creative, but not challenging in a negative sense.

tammikuu 17, 2015, 2:45 pm

Read it and liked it quite a bit. I'd say worth reading, but it probably won't change your world or anything.... :-)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 20, 2015, 11:13 am

I just read the review, and it sounds like the sequel/companion volume to Life After Life: A Novel entitled A God in Ruins: A Novel is very much worth a read. Here's the review-


syyskuu 8, 2015, 11:56 pm

If you are looking for a plot or over arching story, this is not the book for you. It felt to me like the author had some favorite characters and she wanted to see how they would act in different situations. Or that she didn't know which story to tell so she told them all.

I enjoyed the scenes with the Blitz and Nazi Germany. And I'm glad we weren't left hanging about Teddy.

syyskuu 10, 2015, 10:19 pm

I didn't think it was "challenging," but I felt like the premise had some great promise that didn't exactly pay out by the end (for me at least).

syyskuu 11, 2015, 6:44 pm

I really liked the premise and wanted to love the book but I was rather happy to have it end to be honest. Dare I say that I was a little bored by it overall?

syyskuu 12, 2015, 10:33 pm

>11 Yells: Yeah, same here a little. I kept wanting it to lead up to something, which I felt like it never did.

syyskuu 13, 2015, 7:06 am

>12 sweetiegherkin:. For me, that realization was the whole point. As I reader, I, too kept looking for the protagonist to make the decision that would accomplish want she wanted, but although her choices changed things, she could never direct the outcome.

When that finally dawned on me, it had great emotional impact. To realize that things you have done in the past that you regret may not have changed the outcome in the way that you expected, and that you are not in control of your own destiny or anyone else's. It was distinctively not a redemptive arc. It was a liberating one.

That was my take anyway.

syyskuu 13, 2015, 3:16 pm

I'm still thinking about reading this book (despite the fact that it has Nazis in it), in view of vwinslow's comment that "you are not in control of your destiny," which makes the arc of the story "liberating."

Like many people who have received bad medical news, I find myself in a support group, about which I have very mixed feelings. There's a lot of thanking God, talk about mind over matter calling your own shots about which I am very skeptical. (And even then I fall prey to strange moments of the most childish magical thinking, i.e., the pope will arrive in the States the same day I get some important test results so good omen! Man. Doesn't get more pathetic than that.)

Certainly, at these times, one's thoughts turn to the what if this had or had not happened at key (or even seemingly insignificant) moments in life over which we have no control.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 14, 2015, 6:25 pm

>15 vwinsloe:. So sorry to hear that.

I have a colleague who has had a very difficult life who read Life After Life and told me that at first she just didn't understand the powerful emotional reaction that she had to the book. She said that she suddenly burst out sobbing, and didn't understand why. Redemption, she deduced, but a redemption like one she had never encountered. It came from a deep understanding that she was not responsible for everything; that even if she could have foreseen how things would end up, there was no way that she could know whether another choice could have changed things for the better.

But we must try to do the best we can. That's all we can do.
Be well, and may the dice roll in your favor.

syyskuu 13, 2015, 8:10 pm

I wonder if Atkinson thought about that psychological effect of the book on readers or whether she just got an interesting idea and wrote where it led her. Sometimes authors know what they're going for and what response they want to trigger, but I'm not sure they always do.

In a somewhat related vein, I heard Erica Jong talking about Fear of Dying on the radio yesterday. I'm not a fan of hers, but she was really funny in describing a female character who signed up for a no-strings hook-up Web site. Jong said the character thought this would be a tidy solution to her desire for sex in the face of her husband's illness but she ended up meeting nothing but "lunatics."

The NYT review of books today didn't give the book a great notice, but she was so engaging in the NPR interview it made me want to read it.

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