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…).
Be Ye Men of Valor
- A woman enters a smoky café somewhere in Germany.
- She sits at a table with a "pasty […] softly repellant" (1.3) man she knows, as well as his friends, setting her handbag on the floor.
- They make das small talk in German, and order lots of food: Kirschtorte, Pflaumen Streusel, maybe even a toaster strudel delivered.
- The man turns out to be Hitler, and the woman, who is named Ursula, reaches into her handbag, pulls out a revolver, and shoots Der Fuhrer.
- All the men around the table pull out their guns and "darkness fell" (1.14).
11 February 1910
- A girl is suddenly "with no warning, outside the inside and the familiar wet" (2.1)—i.e., she's just been born.
- But she can't breathe.
- Sylvie, the mother, is with Bridget, the housemaid, and Dr. Fellowes is stuck in the thick snow.
- Sylvie's husband, Hugh, isn't around either—he's off finding his sister, Isobel, who has run away to Paris with a man.
- The baby comes early, and Bridget sees that the cord is wrapped around her neck. She's blue and dead "before she had a chance to live" (2.12).
- "Darkness fell" (2.14).
11 February 1910
- Let's try this again.
- This time Dr. Fellowes has arrived, although the midwife has not, and he snips the umbilical cord.
- Bridget fetches some buttered toast (breakfast of champions) and Sylvie cuddles her new baby.
Four Seasons Fill the Measure of the Year
11 February 1910
- Sylvie wakes up later, and the doctor is gone. A farmer was trampled by a bull, and he had to go check on him.
- Sylvie remembers moving to her home with her husband, Hugh, and how she decided to name it Fox Corner, even though Hugh doesn't like the name very much.
- Back in the present, two children, Maurice and Pamela, come into the room to check out their new sister.
- Sylvie has decided to name her Ursula, which means "little she-bear" (4.49). Aw…
- Hugh gets a telegram informing him that his sixteen-year-old sister, Izzie, has had her baby.
- She got knocked up by a married man, so the baby was adopted by a German couple and Izzie was to be sent to a boarding school in Switzerland.
- The baby, Ursula, lies in her carriage and watches a silver hare ornament tied to the hood twirl around in the breeze.
- The Todd family heads off to vacation in Cornwall, home of Camelot, although they don't go there; they spend their time on the beach instead.
- Young Ursula and Pamela are playing in the ocean, and it drags them out further…
- And further…
- And little Ursula finds herself unable to stay afloat: "Darkness fell" (4.94).
11 February 1910
- Once again, Ursula is born, although, as usual, she almost dies.
- Sylvie rocks her and realizes how "one could lose everything in the blink of an eye, the slip of a foot" (5.3). Deadly banana peels must run rampant around there.
- But she tells her young baby to "avoid dark thoughts at all costs" (5.3)—gotta keep that darkness from falling somehow.
- A man named Mr. Winton is painting a beach landscape, but he decides to put some figures into his painting when he sees two little girls playing in the surf.
- When the girls wander too far into the ocean, Mr. Winton jumps in and saves them.
- They return home, and Hugh has a surprise for them: an engine in the basement, which generates electricity. Let there be light.
- Later, Sylvie sits with her friends who have come to see her new baby, Teddy.
- Maurice, the oldest, is a troublemaker, and Sylvie is glad that he'll be sent away to boarding school soon.
- Hugh comes out, and they all have tea together, when the topic of conversation has turned to war: Austria has declared war on Serbia.
- A few days later, Sylvie, Bridget, and the girls walk across the fields to watch the harvest be brought in.
- The cook, Mrs. Glover's son George, is helping, and Bridget has a crush on him.
- They bring him a pork pie for lunch and eat their own lunch on the grass while they watch him harvest.
- He brings them two baby rabbits to take care of, and they return home, tired and a little sunburned.
- Their neighbor's boy, Benjamin Cole, found a bird's nest, and Maurice breaks open the eggs.
- Pamela tries to break open her stupid brother's head with a rock.
- While Old Tom, the gardener, digs a trench for asparagus, Pamela and Ursula make a nest in the corner of the garden for their little bunnies.
- The bunnies don't last long, though, and are soon eaten by foxes.
- Hugh is away at war, and he sends Sylvie letters as often as she can.
- At home, Bridget has a crush on Sam Wellington, who sends her postcards while he's at war, too.
- All the women have been knitting furiously for the cause.
- Rumors are spreading that the Germans are eating babies as the war closes in on England.
- The family has to spend Christmas without Hugh, so they send him a large care package full of cakes, peppermints, cigarettes, and whisky. What else could a man need?
- Ursula gets a knitting doll for Christmas, named Queen Solange. (Bow down.)
- Maurice, pretending to be a "Red Indian" (racial sensitivity not being a thing in 1915), chucks Queen Solange out a window.
- Ursula climbs out the window to retrieve her, slips on the ice, and falls to her death.
- And guess what? "Darkness fell" (6.159).
11 February 1910
- Ursula is born. Dr. Fellowes snips the umbilical cord. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
- The only thing new here is that Dr. Fellowes stays the night and wonders if Bridget will sneak into his room and soap him down by the fire.
- She doesn't.
20 January 1915
- Ursula is about to dive out the window after Queen Solange, but "something made her hesitate" (8.2).
- Pamela fashions a lacrosse-net into a walking cane and retrieves the doll for her sister.
- We learn that Mrs. Glover's handsome son, George, was injured in a gas attack and is in a field hospital in France.
- Then, Bridget gets news that Sam Wellington has died, too.
- Sylvie sums it up best: "This terrible war" (8.32).
- Bridget is engaged to Clarence Dodds, one of Sam Wellington's pals; he wears a mask over half his face because he's all disfigured like Two-Face.
- Sylvie is planning a surprise party for Teddy's fourth birthday, so Bridget takes the kids to Mrs. Dodds's house to eat cake and show off her engagement ring (which Sylvie gave her because Clarence couldn't afford one).
- Bridget and Clarence fantasize about married life on the way back to the party. They'd been gone so long, Ursula had totally forgotten about it, and she's surprised too.
11 November 1918
- The family's new dog, Trixie, crawls next door to the new neighbor's house. They're the Shawcrosses, and they have about as many kids as Kate Gosselin.
- Even though there's a rumor of a deadly flu going around in London, Bridget and Clarence head there for Armistice Day.
- The kids greet Bridget when she returns late that night and tells them of the festivities.
- Ursula and Bridget get sick fast. They run super high fevers and their skin turns lilac as though they'd been in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
- "Darkness fell swiftly" (9.69).
11 February 1910
- You know the drill by now: Ursula is born; Dr. Fellowes gets called away because a farmer is trampled by a bull.
12 November 1918
- Ursula wakes up with a "great dread" (11.2) washing over her.
- She has this feeling that no one should go downstairs to see Bridget, so she stays quietly in bed so that Pamela doesn't wake up either.
- Bridget is very ill, so Sylvie calls Dr. Fellowes.
- In the kitchen, Mrs. Glover is grinding calf tongue (for real—this isn't 19th-century slang for making out, we swear) when Fred Smith, the butcher's boy, shows up with a delivery.
- When he leaves, everyone notices they haven't seen Teddy in a while.
- Ursula finds him on Bridget's bed. Well, Bridget's deathbed, actually—she's blue and still.
- Teddy gets violently ill, bloody spit frothing from his nostrils, and quickly dies.
- Ursula, too, gets sick, and soon dies.
- As it does, "Darkness fell" (11.46).
11 February 1910
- Ursula has been born (again) and Sylvie stands at the window and watches George Glover riding one of his majestic horses through the snow.
- She nurses Ursula and wonders if it's all just a hallucination.
11 November 1918
- Ursula forges a note from her mother and leaves it on the door. The note tells Bridget to stay with Clarence's mother because the door is locked: "There is a gang of robbers in the village" (13.1).
- The next day, Bridget isn't there, and Sylvie wonders why Ursula played such a prank on her.
- No worries, though, because Sylvie sent Pamela to fetch Bridget.
- Pamela returns and "darkness soon fell again" (13.20).
11 February 1910
- Fifth verse, same as the first: birth, bull, etc.
- Mrs. Glover asks Bridget to find a flower for Sylvie's breakfast day.
- There's a blizzard, though—and not the Dairy Queen kind—so Bridget says "In this weather?" (14.7).
11 November 1918
- Ursula trips Bridget and she sprains her ankle…
- But she doesn't let that stop her from going to Armistice Day: "Come on, Clarence. Give me your arm. I can hobble" (15.6).
- "Darkness, and so on" (15.7)—Atkinson's words, not ours.
11 February 1910
- Do we even have to say it? Ursula is born. Mrs. Glover brings Sylvie her breakfast with a snowdrop on the tray.
11 November 1918
- Ursula tries to talk to Sylvie about her recurring memories, memories of lives she's had before.
- Sylvie calls it déjà vu, and encourages her to think sunny thoughts instead, but Bridget thinks that Ursula has the "second sight" (17.4).
- This time around, when they're given rabbits, Ursula convinces Pamela to hide them indoors, where they thrive and multiply.
- When Armistice Day rolls around, Ursula gives Bridget a big ol' shove down the stairs and breaks her arm.
- Bridget swears she was pushed, and Ursula hides—she knows she did a bad thing even if it saved the whole family from dying of Spanish Flu.
- She comes out of hiding when her dad comes home from war.
- Ursula walks the streets, which are covered in ice, wondering if this is the beginning of a new Ice Age.
- She trudges upstairs to her apartment, which is "Dickensian" (18.5) in its dinginess (i.e., long-winded and full of about 723 tenants).
- A care package from Pammy is waiting for her: cabbages, potatoes, eggs, and, most important, a bottle of whiskey.
- Ursula lights the gas fire, unpacks the box, and listens to the radio while she waits for the water to boil.
- She remembers things that have happened in the last thirty years: her mother's suicide, the end of the war, lost friends, getting her mind off things by shopping at Selfridge's.
- The boiled egg is yummalicious, and Ursula inscribes a thank-you postcard to Pammy to mail the next day.
- Then the power goes out.
- Ursula crawls under the blanket to sleep. She's very, very tired—and she wonders if the smell of the gas will wake her if the pilot light goes out.
- It doesn't… and "Darkness begins to fall" (18.38).
11 February 1910
- Queenie the cat finds herself a nice little cat-sized bed and cuddles up to go to sleep.
- It isn't long before she's thrown from the bed because there's a new arrival: baby Ursula.
- She was born not breathing (as usual) but Sylvie breathes into the baby's lungs and revives her.
Like a Fox in a Hole
- Izzie, who is now writing a weekly newspaper column, takes thirteen-year-old Ursula out for lunch.
- She's been writing about Sylvie's kids, kind of, in her advice column, taking inspiration from their lives.
- Izzie asks Ursula about Dr. Kellet, a doctor she has been seeing to help her "unite the divided self" (20.49).
- Ursula and Dr. Kellet talked about reincarnation and amor fati (the acceptance of fate) and such, but Ursula isn't seeing him anymore; she's been told she's been cured. (Probably because this is only the second time she's been this old before.)
- Izzie wonders if she should pick up the check at the restaurant. (Ursula: "I have no money. I'm thirteen" (20.64).)
- They hop in Izzie's car and drive to her fancy apartment, where Ursula spritzes on some Chanel No. 5 and listens to honky-tonk music.
- Izzie has a party to attend, so she can't drive Ursula to the train station. She walks there and travels home by herself, where her dad picks her up.
- Sylvie isn't there when Ursula gets home, and no one knows (or really seems to care) where she is.
- She arrives in time for dessert, and seems pretty happy, but says she's not hungry.
- That night, Pamela wonders aloud why Izzie invited Ursula and not herself.
- Ursula tells Pammy everything about the day, except one thing she left out: the fact that she saw Sylvie with another man at Gerrads Cross. Scandalous.
- Within a year, Izzie's car gets repossessed and she downsizes her fancy apartment for a smaller one.
- Ursula and Teddy take Trixie the dog to look for holly.
- Trixie finds something else, though: a dead body. (Maybe her name is Holly?)
- No one has any idea why she's there, who killed her, or even what her name is. They name her Angela (we like Holly better), and bury her in the churchyard.
- Teddy, being the one who found her, has nightmares for weeks.
11 February 1926
- It's Ursula's sixteenth birthday.
- Maurice is visiting with two friends, Gilbert and Howard, an American.
- Izzie breezes in, as she does, with armfuls of gifts, like jazz records, Shalimar, and champagne.
- She also reveals that she's an author—she has a book series called The Adventures of Augustus, which is like Harry Potter without the magic.
- It's a publishing sensation, and Augustus is loosely based on Teddy, so he's quasi-famous… and he's not happy about it.
- Later, Teddy loses his ball, and Ursula goes to look for it in the shrubbery.
- Howie, Maurice's American friend, corners her and kisses her fiercely.
- To cap off her sixteenth birthday, Ursula finds a half-drunk glass of champagne and shares it with Teddy.
- Pamela learns that she failed her Cambridge exam.
- Thinking that academia is "pointless for girls" (20.245), Sylvie is totally okay with the fact that her daughter won't attend that school. Or any school.
- Trixie the dog has died, and they've replaced her with a new one: Jock.
- Maurice returns for a visit, bringing Howie with him.
- When Ursula goes upstairs to get a book or a handkerchief or something ("afterward she would never remember what" (20.263)), she runs into Howie.
- He pushes her against the wall and rapes her.
- Then he says, "English girls. […] You really are something!" (20.267). Yikes.
- Ursula tells no one about it, although the experience haunts her; she thinks about it when she dances with Fred Smith at a party, and it makes her sick to her stomach.
- One day, Ursula looks in The Teaching of Young Children and Girls as to Reproduction by Dr. Beatrice Webb and realizes that she might be pregnant.
- She considers throwing herself in front of a train, but instead boards the train and goes to London to visit Izzie.
- Izzie takes Ursula to "get rid of it" (20.310), which Ursula thinks means give up for adoption, but actually means abortion.
- She's pretty horrified to find out that she had an operation.
- Ursula gets really ill, and almost dies ("snow was in the air" (20.326)), but manages to pull through.
- Her father gets her from the hospital and brings her home.
- Instead of returning to school, Ursula takes a shorthand typing course.
- She also confesses what happened to Pamela, who tries to tell Ursula that none of it is her fault.
- Her mother, on the other hand, tells Ursula that it was totally all her fault. This must not be a topic covered in early-20th-century parenting books…
- Ursula asks to see Dr. Kellet again, but Sylvie says, "He's retired" (20.340).
- Ursula cuts off her hair, even though she has never seen a single Lifetime movie.
- At dinner one night, Major Shawcross comes over looking for Nancy, his youngest.
- No one has seen her, so they head out looking for her.
- They find her… but the murderer has gotten to her already.
- Pamela leaves for Leeds and Ursula attends a secretarial school run by Dr. Carver, a man who loves Esperanto.
- Dr. Carver is also a little creepy, touching the necks of the girls as they type.
- Ursula believes that there is "something in her that attracted this kind of attention" (20.375), which is a bummer of a belief if ever we've seen one.
- Pamela is getting married to a doctor named Harold, and Ursula is being fitted for her bridesmaid's dress.
- She's gained weight, but thankfully isn't pregnant this time.
- She lives in an apartment by herself, because her roommate is having an affair with a married man and lives with him.
- Pamela spends the night with Ursula, and they talk about marriage. Ursula avoids talking about her newly developed drinking problem.
- Even though she's totally sober (a rare occurrence these days) Ursula trips one day in November, a few months after Pamela's wedding and falls flat on her face, breaking her nose.
- A man named Derek Oliphant picks her up and helps stanch the blood; they wed three months later.
- Ursula stops drinking and throws herself into married life.
- One night at dinner, Sylvie corrects a misquote of Derek's. ("Frailty, they name is woman," not "Vanity, thy name is woman"—get your insults right, yo.)
- "A shadow pass[es] over Derek's face but then he laugh[s] it off" (20.461). That shadow? That's foreshadowing flying overhead.
- Derek and Ursula move into a tiny house that he bought and furnished without consulting her. They have boring sex and he harasses her about keeping the house clean and having all his meals ready on time.
- When they visit his mother for the first time since the wedding, Ursula discovers that everything Derek has told her (his sister died, his father left him an inheritance, he's George Clooney) is a lie.
- One morning, her poached egg isn't up to snuff, so he slaps her in the face and dumps the egg on her head.
- He works at a school, and he invites her to the annual sports day to be his trophy wife.
- Eavesdropping on other faculty members, she learns that Derek is a horrible teacher, everyone hates him (even the students), and the book he's working on is a total joke.
- One night, when Derek is gone, Ursula snoops in his office—turns out, he hasn't even started writing his book and he doesn't pay any of the bills either.
- He catches her and punches her so hard she passes out.
- While Derek is asleep, Ursula takes money from his wallet and flees to Izzie, who gives her shelter.
- Teddy visits and helps comfort Ursula while she recovers.
- One morning, the doorbell rings. Ursula gets the door expecting Izzie (she always forgets her keys), but it's Derek.
- He thinks that Teddy is a man Ursula left him for, and he attacks her.
- Teddy tries to defend Ursula, and a scuffle ensues.
- Derek throws an ashtray at Teddy and slams Ursula's head into the corner of the coffee table hard enough to kill her: "Nothing could stop her fall into the dark night" (20.611).
11 February 1926
- This is the day when Howie kissed Ursula last time.
- This time, she kicks him in the shins before he can take advantage of her.
- "All girls, especially those celebrating their sixteenth birthdays, had to be cautious when walking through the dark, wild wood" (20.614). This is the 1926 version of #yesallwomen.
- Ursula, Sylvie, and (to Sylvie's dismay) Izzie lounge outside and chat in the summer sun.
- Izzie says that her book series is super successful. She has a giant house, but no husband and no child, so she asks to adopt Jimmy, Sylvie's youngest.
- Um… Sylvie is furious.
- Before dinner, Ursula gets one of her dramatic feelings and she runs into the woods.
- Nothing scary happens. She only bumps into Fred Smith.
- On the way back, she bumps into Nancy Shawcross (who was murdered in Ursula's last life, if you recall).
- The girls return to the house together, and the creepy man with a limp they pass on the trail doesn't bother them.
A Lovely Day Tomorrow
2 September 1939
- Pamela is pregnant (again, she already has three boys at this point); Maurice is married (poor woman); and Ursula is working for the Home Office (and having an affair with a married man).
- Everyone wonders what they'll do when the new war finally comes to England.
- Ursula and Crighton, her paramour, usually spend their nights at her apartment or take little holidays to Monkey Island.
- He says that Ursula's "reputation for discretion precedes [her]" (21.65), and thinks she'd make a good spy.
- After talking to Pamela about Maurice and war, Ursula "wish[es] now that she'd bought the yellow crepe de Chine" (21.116). We're not sure what that is (j/k—it's fabric), but we bet it would coordinate well with foreshadowing.
- Ursula is lying on her back in a pool of sewage and water and thinking about how she got there.
- She's been living (but not for much longer, we fear) in an apartment across the hall from Mrs. Appleyard, a recently single mother of a young baby.
- Crighton has ended things with Ursula (and later sent her a note asking for his gold cigarette case back, which she found under her bed and kept), and she's started seeing Ralph, a fellow student in her German course.
- Dating during the Blitz is difficult work, and Ralph and Ursula start building their relationship as bombs fall.
- He leaves her apartment one day before the bomb sirens go off and Ursula hides in the basement with the rest of the tenants: the dozens of Millers (including Renee Miller, the oldest daughter), Mrs. Appleyard, and the Misses Nesbit, elderly sisters who leave the shelter to retrieve their knitting.
- Too bad they didn't knit a bomb-proof suit, since a bomb blows up their building, pretty much killing everyone.
- Mrs. Appleyard, barely alive, crawls to Ursula, lying motionless at the bottom of the crater, and asks if she's seen her baby.
- Ursula hasn't. But she does notice the "headless, legless body of Lavinia Nesbit" (21.238) hanging above her.
- A rescue crew arrives and tries to get Ursula out of the rubble.
- She can't talk, and the guy keeps calling her Susie.
- "She didn't want to die as a Susie" (21.243), but she starts seeing the snow and the spinning of the silver hare ornament: "The darkness had fallen" (21.252).
A Lovely Day Tomorrow
2 September 1939
- Ursula visits with Pammy and Harold, but doesn't stay the night with them because she has plans.
- She puts on the yellow crepe de Chine dress that she bought (this time) and listens to the Appleyards fighting next door.
- Crighton has told her that war is coming tomorrow, but he hasn't told her whether or not they're going to be staying together.
- She ends up changing dresses before dinner (guess the color is more "red herring" than yellow) and they go to a hotel after.
- He tells her that he's leaving his wife, Moira, and his girls, and although he doesn't want to marry Ursula (she doesn't want to marry him, either), he'd like her to live with him.
- She raises a toast to him and says yes.
- Maurice picks Ursula up from Crighton's place to take her to Fox Corner for Hugh's birthday.
- She remembers to take off her fake wedding ring before leaving, not wanting to draw attention from her family to her fake relationship.
- The whole family (except for Pammy, who can't travel with her brood) gather, dine, and bicker at the table, just like old times.
- Sylvie snipes at Izzie, people talk about war, Maurice wonders why Ursula is still single, and evacuee children Sylvie is letting live at Fox Corner run around like crazy.
- As Hugh blows out his candle, one of the evacuees announces that a woman with "loads of bloody kids" (22.124) has arrived. It's Pammy.
- Back home with Crighton, Ursula considers signing up for the women's auxiliary to do her part for the war effort.
- When Jimmy comes to visit, Ursula bumps into Renee Miller, who insists she return to the apartment building to visit the Misses Nesbit.
- Ursula does, and she brings Mrs. Appleyard a parcel of old baby clothes from Pammy.
- Unfortunately, she's there the same day the bomb drops.
- The man tries to rescue her, calling her Susie, but "everything was dark" (22.178).
A Lovely Day Tomorrow
- This time around, Ursula and Crighton have split up, so Ursula is still living across the hall from Mrs. Appleyard.
- However, instead of taking shelter in the basement when the sirens go off, she notices a dog cowering across the street, and runs over to protect it.
- When the bomb falls, the explosion knocks her over and "everything went dark" (23.18)…
- Except this time, Ursula lives; the dog wakes her up by licking her face.
- A fireman comes over to check on her, and he looks just like Fred Smith.
- Unfortunately, the wall of her apartment that's barely standing decides to fall at this moment, crushing them both (and probably the dog, too) and "bringing the darkness down with it" (23.23).
- Instead of reading a book on shorthand, like she did the last time she lived August 1926, Ursula is studying German.
- Everyone is bored on this long summer day, and Maurice teaches Ursula to shoot, calling her a "real Annie Oakley" (23.28).
- Ursula goes for a long walk before supper (after being kissed on her sixteenth birthday by Howie, a feat that seems to be a little less rape-y this time) and runs into Nancy and walks her home.
- On the way to Ursula's house, she bumps into Benjamin Cole on his bike (not literally) and he asks her to a party.
- He pedals off, and a strange man comes out of the woods and grabs Ursula.
- She shakes him off and runs, but she doesn't tell anyone about it.
- Later, she goes to the party but it "was a disappointment" (23.62) because Ben hardly pays attention to her.
- She brings a bunch of cake back home and shares it with Teddy. Cake makes everything better.
The Land of Begin Again
- Ursula is now living in Munich, Germany, watching parades of Nazis and saluting Hitler and everything (like ya do).
- She studied for a degree in modern languages and decided to tour Europe for a year before settling down to teach; in Munich, she stays with the large Brenner family.
- On the way to Germany, she's harassed on the train by a strange salami-eating man who later falls from the train.
- Once she settles in, Ursula spends her days mostly with Klara, the eldest Brenner, eating ice cream and drinking beer. Now that's the life.
- Together, they join the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM), the girls' equivalent of the Hitler-Jugend—think: summer camp for supremacists.
- There, Ursula meets someone named Jürgen-Fuchs, and it's "Love at first sight" (24.81), although Ursula admits she's exaggerating just a tad.
- Ursula and her daughter, Frieda (Jürgen is the father), are hanging out at Hitler's estate because Ursula is BFFs with Eva Braun.
- It's a beautiful estate, and they spend their days lounging around, reading banned books, occasionally rubbing elbows with historical figures like Albert Speer, and getting their picture taken by Eva. But all Ursula wants to do is return home to Fox Corner—she's not comfortable in the heart of Nazi Central.
- She's also dismayed that her husband works with them. Even though he ideologically disagrees with them, he still pays them "Lippenbekenntnis. […] Lip service" (24.116).
- The reason they're staying with Eva is because Frieda became ill, and Eva, who was good friends with Klara, thought the fresh mountain air (and swastikas) would do the girl good.
- Eva isn't happy there, either. Hitler is "wedded to Germany" (24.155) and often ignores her, busy napping until noon, farting all the time, and watching movies, highbrow fare like King Kong and Mickey Mouse cartoons.
- Ursula remembers the time Sylvie came to visit in 1934, being her typical snotty mom self, and shopping at fancy Germany department stores. ("'Fancy you becoming a mother,' Sylvie said, as if it were something she had never expected. 'To a German,' she added thoughtfully. 'To a baby,' Ursula said" (24.186-24.187).)
- She also recalls when she decided to take Frieda and leave for Fox Corner via train in 1935… but somehow Jürgen knew about it and hid her passport.
- The day after she leaves Hitler's estate, Germany invades Poland.
- Ursula is trapped in Germany, living in a cellar with Frieda, while the British (Teddy, who's joined the RAF, is probably one of them) and Americans bomb the country day and night.
- Jürgen died last year in a raid, and Ursula "was ashamed at how relieved she felt" (24.218); Frieda was much more upset that her father had died.
- They've been starving, having to wait in line for bread. When some of their neighbors give them the food they have to spare—potatoes and sausage—Ursula gives most of it to her daughter.
- Although Hitler is rumored to be dead, the assault never ends.
- Frieda is increasingly ill, and Ursula can get no medicine to help her.
- She goes to the chemist anyway, and gets some pills to end her and her daughter's lives.
- "Everything is going to be all right now" (24.239), she tells Frieda and puts the pill into her mouth.
- "She had never chosen death over life before and as she was leaving she knew something had cracked and broken and the order of things had changed. Then the darkness obliterated all thoughts" (24.241).
A Long Hard War
- Ursula has joined the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) department, working as a warden to rescue people from buildings after bombs fall on London.
- Her fellow wardens include Miss Woolf, a retired hospital matron; Mr. Durkin, who misquotes literature all the time; veterans of WWI Mr. Simms and Mr. Palmer; Herr Zimmerman, a German refugee; and Mr. Bullock, a wrestler who has a lot of friends who are strippers.
- The first serious incident involved a house that suffered a direct hit. Surprisingly, everyone survived the blast, but a water pipe burst, flooding the basement and drowning all fifteen people.
- Later, they need someone slim to wriggle through another hole, so Ursula crawls through and finds a dead body.
- That night is rainy and gross and Ursula is so exhausted she almost falls right into an enormous crater, but Mr. Bullock grabs her before she tumbles to her death.
- He sends her home to the apartment she shares with Millie.
- The next day, she notices some of Miss Woolf's notes on her desk for some reason. They mention "one dog still operating" (25.82), but Ursula can't remember seeing a dog anywhere.
- At some point later, Ursula is at Fox Corner eating lunch outside with her family.
- She mentions that she has "a young man" (25.111) named Ralph, whom she met in her German class.
- That night, Hugh walks her to the station, but the last train has left by the time they get there.
- There is an engine going, however, and Fred Smith offers to let her ride on the engine back to London.
- Ursula agrees. She rides to London in an engine that's "hotter than hell" (25.159) and stumbles home through a blackout.
- Millie remarks that Ursula looks "like a coal miner" (25.172) when she arrives.
- Ursula and Miss Woolf are keeping watch as a full-scale raid is in progress.
- They share stories of their lives with one another, Ursula telling Miss Woolf all about her younger brothers, Jimmy and Teddy.
- She went out with Jimmy a few weeks ago, and found a girl crying in the ladies' room.
- Her name is Renee (Renee Miller, whom Ursula doesn't really know in this life), and Ursula notices that she carries a gold cigarette case, the same one Crighton used to carry.
- When Jimmy leaves, Ursula tells him to promise he won't die: "Do my best" (25.235), he says.
- It's Hugh's funeral.
- He had a heart attack on the lawn and died in his chair, where Izzie found him.
- Nancy Shawcross reads a poem at the funeral, while Pamela and Bridget practically have to hold Sylvie up near the open grave.
- Izzie decides to stay at Fox Corner, but neither she nor Sylvie can bring themselves to sort through Hugh's things.
- Bridget and Ursula do it, packing up his clothes to give away.
- Before Ursula leaves, Izzie confesses to Ursula that she had a baby, a boy who is probably as old as Ursula is now.
- Now that Hugh's gone, Izzie has no way of tracking down her child, a child who is most likely now the enemy. (In a Nazi sense, not in a Rosemary's Baby sense.)
- All the wardens in Ursula's ward of the ARP are having a good ol' time—playing piano and violin, singing opera, dancing—when the warning goes off.
- Ursula has a premonition that things aren't going to go well.
- Sure enough, the incident is pretty bad. An apartment building has been pretty much leveled by a bomb.
- It turns out to be the apartment building Ursula was living in back in the "A Lovely Day Tomorrow" chapters.
- A woman (whom Ursula doesn't know as Mrs. Appleyard) asks for her baby, Emil, then dies.
- They also find a smart-mouthed woman pinned by some wreckage.
- It's Renee Miller, who ends up dying in front of them; Ursula collects her identity card and her gold cigarette case.
- As they continue to explore the wreckage, Ursula finds Emil, the baby… when she steps on his dead body.
- Stepping on dead babies sure works up an appetite, so Ursula heads to canteen for a snack, but she gets distracted by a dog up the street.
- She goes to check on the little dog, a terrier, and as she's with it, the rest of the apartment building falls right on the canteen.
- It kills Mr. Emslie, one of the wardens, and Tony, the messenger boy.
- Fred Smith, who is a fireman on the scene, is mad that they parked the canteen there.
- Ursula realizes that he's angry "because they were dead, not because they were stupid" (25.375).
- He offers to walk her home, but they go to Izzie's empty house instead and have sex in one of the empty bedrooms.
- After, as they're lying there smoking cigarettes, Fred says "I don't really pick up strange women and fuck them in posh houses" (25.393). Sure you don't, Fred…
- His crass attitude doesn't sit right with Ursula, and she later tells Millie that he was "disappointing" (25.400).
- Despite her dalliance with Fred Smith, Ursula continues seeing Ralph, who is a lot sweeter in bed than Fred.
- She's also boinking Crighton again on the side.
- Ursula takes a break from patrolling when Teddy comes to visit.
- She gives him the little terrier, now named Lucky, to take care of.
- There's a terrible raid later, which blows off the roof of Ursula and Millie's apartment building. Even if they always wanted a skylight, they probably didn't expect it to happen like that.
- At least they're not there when it happens.
- Ursula continues to stay there in the open-air arrangement, but when Millie returns, she thinks Ursula has lost her mind and insists they move.
- She later hunts down Fred Smith again, and he apologizes for being "a complete arse" (25.481) the last time they were together.
- He also says, "Do you know your problem, Miss Todd?" (25.483) in a flirty way, but before he can answer, the siren goes off and he has to rush for duty.
- He never gets to answer, though, since he's crushed by a wall in the fire.
- Just when things can't get worse, they get worse: Teddy's plane goes down.
- Maurice delivers the news to Ursula.
- Izzie comes to get her and take her to Fox Corner. She's able to drive them because she knows a man who can get her petrol ration coupons.
- Everyone is distraught and trying to hold out hope that he survived, but Maurice insists he's dead.
- To find out for sure, Ursula goes to talk to Roy Holt, one of Teddy's crewmates.
- He says there's no way Teddy could have survived, and he returns Lucky to Ursula. (That dog sure didn't live up to his name.)
- Sylvie soon kills herself by overdosing on sleeping pills.
- Pamela is to inherit Fox Corner, and the house's contents are to be divided among the children.
- Ursula takes the little carriage clock; Jimmy doesn't want anything; Teddy is dead; and Maurice sends a truck, loots the house, and sells everything. What a model brother.
- Ursula is in her apartment gorging herself on Pammy's care package (remember this from Chapter 18?) and the box of Milk Tray.
- The power goes out… Ursula starts to feel very, very tired (from all the gas leaking into her apartment when the pilot light goes out…).
- But this time, the power comes back on soon, and Ursula doesn't die of gas inhalation. Whew.
- Ursula, now 57, has a date with Benjamin Cole (finally), but she's not attracted to him anymore (darn).
- "Catch me next time around" (25.592), she tells him, maybe or maybe not realizing that this is totally possible.
- She has recently retired from her job and been given tickets for Beethoven's Choral.
- She'd love to invite Miss Woolf, except she's dead—she died back in 1944—and Crighton's dead, too. It seems like all her friends are dead.
- Ursula decides to take Nigel, her favorite nephew, with her.
- While they're out, she starts talking about Hitler as though she met him (her past lives blurring over?).
- In July, she takes a walk through the park and eats an ice cream.
- She falls asleep on a park bench and wakes up with a headache—it's really bad, so she closes her eyes and falls asleep again.
- Even though it's July, "snow began to fall" (25.664).
- Oh, you know what that means. Ursula is born again.
The End of the Beginning
- This go 'round, Hugh makes it back to Fox Corner in time for Ursula's birth.
- Something else is different—he has Izzie in tow—and she gives birth, too, to a boy she names Roland.
- Sylvie pretty much raises Roland, and he and Ursula grow up together; however, a few years later, Roland drowns in the ocean at the same beach Ursula drowned in back in Chapter 4.
- Mr. Winton tries to save him, but isn't quick enough.
- Izzie sticks around Fox Corner after everyone mourns Roland's death.
- Later that summer, they take a walk to see the harvest, but Bridget forgets to bring their lunches, and they have to eat the pork pie intended for George.
- George gives them two rabbits, but Sylvie refuses to take them.
- This upsets Pamela so much, Sylvie promises her a kitten, which dies within a week. ("I am cursed," Pamela declared (26.59).)
- To keep Bridget from going with Clarence to Armistice Day, Ursula lies to her, saying she saw him kissing Molly Lester by the sweet shop.
- Ursula hides her Queen Solange doll (thereby avoiding following it out the window to her death), but while Maurice is stomping around the house, he steps on and kills Pamela's new kitten.
- She tries to tear all his hair out.
- Sylvie takes Ursula to see Dr. Kellet because she's having déjà vu all the time.
- Ursula ends up bumping into Benjamin Cole on her sixteenth birthday and kissing him instead of Howie, making it the best sixteenth birthday yet.
- Maurice later teaches Ursula to shoot, but makes everyone angry when he kills the fox on the property, too.
- On the day Nancy Shawcross is killed, Ursula isn't able to stop it this time since she's too busy canoodling with Benjamin Cole in the bushes.
- They feel guilty, and never see each other again.
- In October, she has a bunch of terrible déjà vu episodes—seeing visions of Derek Oliphant and her abortion, for example—and passes out.
- She's taken to a private clinic where Dr. Kellet takes care of her until Hugh comes to pick her up.
- She still sees things, though, and ends up jumping out the attic window: "She opened her arms to the black bat and they flew to each other, embracing in the air like long-lost souls" (26.230).
Be Ye Men of Valor
- This chapter is simply a retelling of Chapter 1.
- If you don't remember, here's what happens: Ursula marches into a café in Germany, sits down with Hitler (which is totally normally because she's friends with Eva Braun), shoots him, then is shot herself, and dies.
11 February 1910
- At this point, you know Ursula's birthday well enough you'll probably celebrate it in real life.
- Ursula is born, but this time Dr. Fellowes isn't present.
- The umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck, and she's blue.
- Sylvie opens the drawer of her bedside table, retrieves some scissors, and snips the cord herself.
The Broad Sunlit Uplands
- Teddy is shot down near Berlin, but survives.
- When he finally makes it home to London, he's greeted by Ursula and Nancy.
- Nancy runs to him and hugs him, but Ursula stays still, afraid if she moves the illusion will be broken.
- But she realizes that it's "real" and "true" (29.18).
- He shouts something to her across the pub: "She thought it was 'Thank you,' but she might have been wrong" (29.19).
- Mrs. Haddock, the rarely seen midwife, is drinking rum in an inn.
- The landlord tells her that there's so much snow, they could be stuck there for days.
- The end.