Book Report: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Introduction

 

Life afterlife is a fiction novel written by Kate Atkinson. Upon its release, the book was received positively earning positive reviews from most of the critics. The New York Times Book review, for instance, ranked Life after Life as the tenth best book of the year 2013. The novel has won several awards including the Costa Book Awards (2013) in the novel category, as well as being nominated for Orange Prize for Fiction in 2013. Kate Atkinson’s novel has been selected for this book report because of its relevance in the contemporary society. The book discusses some of the challenges that people and societies go through. The book’s plot is set in the later parts of the 20th century and follows through defining moments of that century such as the World War II. The novel is a must read because it compels one to think about various options of life and the best ways in which one can live the right way. The book also brings out the inventiveness of the author through its dark comic and poignant approach to issues facing the society. Kate Atkinson is also a very prolific writer who has authored several other interesting books before. She is one of the most influential and prolific novelists of this century.

Setting and Plot

The novel is set in the 20th century in Europe. The story follows on major political events of this period such as the World War II and the challenges that Middle class families in Europe encountered at the time. The novel takes a rather unusual structure that keeps going back in time to present defining moments in Ursula Todd, the main character. The story is about the life and challenges of Ursula Todd, who was born on cold night in 1910 to a wealthy English banker (Atkinson, 12). Ursula Todd lives a rather unusual life that is coupled with challenges right from her birth. On the same night she was born, her mother breathed her last and passed on. Her birth was also a challenge as her umbilical cord strangled her before she was eventually rescued and given back her life.
Throughout her life, Ursula Todd goes through many challenges that present her life and death in different circumstances. She, therefore, dies and lives at the same time in her life. Ursula Todd is presented as a heroine who overcomes several challenges in her life. Among some of the major challenges that Ursula Todd goes through include drowning in water, contracting influenza, and falling off the roof in her childhood. She also attempts suicide on multiple occasions in her life. The most intriguing and interesting fact about Ursula Todd’s life story is that every time she dies or comes close to dying, she resurrects, again and again, to take on a different path of her life. As a teenager, Ursula becomes a victim of rape. Her first marriage was also a major challenge to her because she had to preserve abuse from her partner. Her life keeps transforming and taking on different trajectories. Later on, she is caught up in the midst of World War II, where she manages to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

 

Characters and Themes

The main character of the story is Ursula Todd, who goes through several challenges in her life. Other characters who help to shape Ursula’s life include Dr. Fellowes, a family doctor who was unable to be present at Ursula’s birth because of the weather conditions at the time (Atkinson, 23). Because of his failure to be present, Ursula suffers by being strangled by her umbilical cord and her mother, Sylvie, passes on. This represented Ursula’s first major challenge. Another important character is Todd’s brother, Ted, who dies and re-emerges late on to help Todd Assassinate Hitler during World War II.
Kate Atkinson uses this book to address several themes depicting issues in contemporary society. The first major theme is Second Chance. This refers to an opportunity to try something out another time after failing at it. The main character, Ursula Todd, gets a second chance on several occasions in her life. She encounters several challenges and death but keeps getting a second chance to live her life. The other major theme is reincarnation. This is probably the most dominant theme in the novel. Ursula Todd keeps dying and resurrecting on several occasions in the story. The author is probably trying to ask people to examine the issue of reincarnation in detail. Another major theme is the position of women in society. Ursula goes through several challenges that women go through such as rape and domestic violence. She, however, manages to come through all these challenges and progress with her life. This is an indication that women can overcome their challenges and go on to live better lives Women should not succumb to their challenges and give up on their dreams, but they should rise up strongly.

 

Conclusion

After reading Todd’s story in the novel, one cannot help but fall in love with the story. It is one of the most fantastic and intriguing stories that has ever been published. There is no doubt the book deserves to win the awards it has won so far and the positive reviews it has received. The author uses a different structure to discuss several issues that are relevant to contemporary society. Kate Atkinson’s life afterlife is certainly a must-read.

 

Work Cited
Atkinson, Kate. Life After Life. London: Doubleday, 2013. Print.

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