Study Guide

Life After Life Summary

By Kate Atkinson

Life After Life Summary

Ursula Todd walks into a smoky café in Germany in 1930. She has a lunch date with Hitler (Lunch Date with Hitler was a rejected title for Life After Life), and Hitler has a date with the pistol in her purse. She shoots Hitler, and is immediately killed by all his friends.

In England on 11 February 1910 (that's how they write dates there), Ursula is born. The umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck, and she dies.

In England on 11 February 1910 (that's how they write dates there), Ursula is born. The doctor snips the umbilical cord, and she lives. But she dies at four years old when she gets pulled into the ocean and drowns.

In England on 11 February 1910 (that's how they write dates there), Ursula is born. She lives. Five years later she falls out a window and ides.

In England on 11 February 1910 (that's how they write dates there), Ursula is born. She lives until Armistice Day, at the end of World War I, when her maid, Bridget, comes home with the Spanish Flu and infects her. Darkness falls.

Ursula feels strange déjà vu-like sensations, and tries to change the future with each life. She tries to stop Bridget from going to Armistice Day, but she always does, and a different family member falls ill and dies, like her sister, Pamela, or her beloved brother Teddy. Eventually, Ursula succeeds, though, and everyone lives.

From here, her lives branch off wildly. In one, she is raped on her sixteenth birthday and later marries an abusive man who kills her. In another, she moves to Germany and chills like Maria von Trapp with Eva Braun and her precious little Adolph. She meets a nice German man, has a little girl named Freida, but eventually kills her daughter and herself when they're starving and living in fear from bombs during World War II.

In other lives, Ursula lives in London as a young woman. She has affairs with a married Admiral, Fred Smith (a boy from her youth), and Ralph (a nice boy from her German language class). In some lives, her apartment building collapses and she dies. In others, she joins the Air Raid Precautions department and saves people from collapsing buildings, later dying of old age (or maybe a stroke).

In England on 11 February 1910 (that's how they write dates there), Ursula is born…

Like an episode of Lamb Chop, this could be the book that doesn't end. Ursula is born and reborn over and over again. Sometimes she becomes obsessed with her fate and changing the outcome of her life and her family member's lives. But when her brother Teddy dies in a plane crash over Germany in one life, she can't do anything about it, while in another life, Teddy lives, through no intervention of Ursula's. She realizes that to have a happy life, she has to live and let live (and live, and live, and live…).