I really liked the premise of Life After Life, reincarnation, Groundhog Day etc.. While I really enjoyed parts of the book, especially the beginning, I found other parts entirely too verbose and largely unnecessary. The book overall could have been shorter, probably by about 100 pages or so. Oddly enough the lives of Ursula that were the longest seemed to contribute the least to the novel, but did manage to contribute to a bit of boredom on my part.
The beginning lives are largely told from Ursula's mother's POV due to Ursula being so young when she dies in those lives. It truly is a wonder how any children reach it to adulthood considering all the many ways of dying just in this novel. We don't actually get much of Ursula's personality or perspective early one but Sylvie (mother) is rather entertaining and I enjoyed her POV. Sylvie has a dark, dry humor and it really added to the story for me. Then Ursula began taking control and began her own devious behavior (such as pushing someone down stairs). Of course her devious behavior has a purpose: while she may not remember her past lives, she does experience deja vu and feels compelled to act at times. Young Ursula and Sylvie at this point in time were quite entertaining to me.
But as soon as Ursula's lives are told as an adult it became a bit dull and tedious. First of all, Ursula has absolutely NO luck in love in any of her lives and it was depressing to see her drawn towards the same wrong men each replay. Also, Ursula of old did not seem to have any of her mother's dry wit or humor and she became a bit of a tedious character. Oddly enough Sylvie in these longer lifetimes was a bitter woman and I longed for the younger Sylvie from the beginning of the book as well. WWII plays a major role in later lives, which in fact made for one depressing life after another. I kept wishing for significant changes from life to life, especially as Ursula was an adult, but I found little truly changed and this made the verbose nature of these lives frustrating.
Also, the ending was not satisfactory. In fact it did not really contribute much at all. This was frustrating after so many bitter lives in a row.
For a book that started with a bang (literally:Ursula shoots Hitler in the opening pages!
), it certainly went out with a whimper. I really enjoyed parts and aspects of the book but I was also disappointed so I cannot rate the book more than 3 stars. I did enjoy Kate Atkinson's writing overall, however, and I will read more of her in the future.