Life After Life

Winner of the Costa Novel Award and now a BBC TV series

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, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

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BBC trailer for Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Random Book Talk interview with Kate Atkinson

Transworld Books interview with Kate Atkinson

South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2013 interview with Kate Atkinson

John Purcell from Booktopia TV interview with Kate Atkinson

Kobo in conversation with Kate Atkinson

Anna O'Grady from The Reading Room in conversation with Kate Atkinson

Sue Turnbull from The Wheeler Centre in conversation with Kate Atkinson

Promotional video for Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Author’s note

Discover the story behind the story of Life after Life – how the book came to be, the original inspiration, and sources.


Please note: This does contain spoilers so if you haven’t yet read the book, then you might prefer to do this first.

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Download a reading guide and discussion questions for Life After Life to support your Book Club or Reading Group.


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Kate Atkinson’s new novel is a box of delights. Ingenious in construction, indefatigably entertaining, it grips the readers imagination on the first page and never lets go. If you wish to be moved and astonished, read it. And if you want to give a dazzling present, buy it for your friends.

Hilary Mantel, author of The Mirror and the Light

There aren’t enough breathless adjectives to describe Life After Life: Dazzling, witty, moving, joyful, mournful, profound. Wildly inventive, deeply felt. Hilarious. Humane. Simply put: it’s ONE OF THE BEST NOVELS I’VE READ THIS CENTURY.

Gillian Flynn, No.1 New York Times author of Gone Girl and Sharp Objects

Truly brilliant…Think of Audrey Niffenegger’s The TimeTraveler’s Wife or David Nicholl’s One Day…[or] Martin Amis’s Times Arrow, his rewinding of the Holocaust that was shortlisted for the Booker. Life After Life should have the popular success of the former and deserves to win prizes, too. It has that kind of thrill to it, of an already much-loved novelist taking a leap, and breaking through to the next level…This is a rare book that you want, Ursula-like, to start again the minute you have finished.

Helen Rumbelow, The Times

What makes Atkinson an exceptional writer and this is her most ambitious and most gripping work to date is that she does so with an emotional delicacy and understanding that transcend experiment or playfulness. Life After Life gives us a heroine whose fictional underpinning is permanently exposed, whose artificial status is never in doubt; and yet one who feels painfully, horribly real to us.

Alex Clark, Guardian

Merging family saga with a fluid sense of time and an extraordinarily vivid sense of history at its most human level. A dizzying and dazzling tour de force.

Amber Pearson, Daily Mail

Deliriously inventive, sharply imagined and ultimately affecting…The scenes set in Blitz-stricken London will stay with me forever…Atkinson has written something that amounts to so much more than the sum of its (very many) parts. It almost seems to imply that there are new and mysterious things to feel and say about the nature of life and death, the passing of time, fate and possibility…[a]magnificently tender and humane novel.

Julie Myerson, Observer

Brilliant…more than just a terrific story about the impact of one existence on another. Atkinson can knock the socks off any rival in terms of skill and style…The tour de force of the book, though, is Atkinson’s recreation of the Blitz…unputdownable.

Evening Standard

Absolutely brilliant…it reminded me a bit of her first book Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which is one of my most favourite books ever.

Marian Keyes (Email newsletter)

Stunned with tiredness thanks to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. Couldn’t stop reading. Terrific novel, may be her best yet. So enthralling, so well written, so beautifully constructed. Really, I can’t fault it. Will be one of my books of the year.

Val McDermid (Twitter)

World events, reimagined characters and second chances told with warmth, wit and consummate skill.

Fanny Blake, Woman & Home

Startlingly brilliant…endlessly rich.

James Walton, Reader's Digest

Life After Life is to be applauded for its inventiveness, and for reminding us of lives vanished without trace or memory in the waste and monstrosity of war.

Literary Review

Atkinson, like Audrey Niffenegger before her with the similarly ambitious The Time Traveller’s Wife, is a confident enough writer to bear her high concept along well above water level.


Atkinson’s great skill is in portraying the exquisite tapestry of [life] with warmth, humour and immense humanity.

Yorkshire Post

One of the most innovative, pacy plots of any recent novel.

Psychologies Magazine

Playful, intelligent and beguiling…Astoundingly accomplished.

Marie Claire

A profound read that finds light in the darkest times.

Glamour Magazine

If you enjoyed The Time Traveller’s Wife, you will love this inventive fantasy from the author of the Jackson Brodie series…marvel at Atkinson’s skill in carrying off this absorbing feat of imagination.

Sunday Mirror

Atkinson’s achievement is to convince the reader that being disorientated about exactly what has happened so far is acceptable and enjoyable…deftly constructed…The innovative narrative structure of Life After Life reasserts the best there is to hope for in human existence.

Times Literary Supplement

Hilary Mantel, a rival for the Women’s Prize, once said that Atkinson “delivers to the populace its jokes and its tragedies as efficiently as Dickens once delivered his, though Atkinson has a game-plan more sophisticated than Dickens’s”. This is Atkinson’s best book to date, and she is as worthy as Mantel for the Prize.

Daily Telegraph

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