Study Guide

Life After Life Chapter 24

By Kate Atkinson

Chapter 24

The Land of Begin Again

August 1933

  • 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.

August 1939

  • 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.

April 1945

  • 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).