Life After Life

Life After Life

by

Kate Atkinson

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Ursula Todd Character Analysis

The protagonist of the novel, Ursula is born on February 11, 1910, to Sylvie and Hugh Todd. She has a unique life, in that she lives it over and over again. In her first life, she is strangled by her umbilical cord; in the second, she survives this traumatic birth. Over the course of the novel, she experiences various deaths and in subsequent lives, gets bouts of “déjà vu,” and tries to avoid the mistakes that she makes in previous ones. She is very close with her father, her older sister Pamela, and her younger brother Teddy; but her oldest brother, Maurice, is mean-spirited and indifferent towards her. She has a complicated relationship with her mother due to one version of her life in which she is raped by a boy named Howie, becomes pregnant, and subsequently gets an abortion—the ultra-conservative Sylvie blames Ursula for this incident. As a result of Sylvie’s coldness, Ursula ends up marrying the abusive Derek Oliphant. Fortunately, in Ursula’s next life, she avoids this fate and becomes more empowered, only dating men who see her as an equal and often avoiding marriage altogether. Other formative experiences for Ursula include multiple timelines in which she experiences the war while in Britain. In another timeline, Ursula travels to Germany, marries a man named Jürgen and has a daughter named Frieda. Jürgen gradually rises through the Nazi Party, and they become close with Adolf Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun, until the war turns against Germany, and Ursula and her daughter commit suicide. Ultimately, Ursula realizes that she can use her multiple lives to help prevent the deaths of many of her family members in the war. She uses the knowledge she has gained over time to find and kill Adolf Hitler before the start of the war, even though it means her immediate death. Still, this is not the final life in Ursula’s story: that one sees her reuniting with Teddy after the war, thus complicating the idea that Ursula’s highest purpose or most meaningful life was the one in which she kills Hitler.

Ursula Todd Quotes in Life After Life

The Life After Life quotes below are all either spoken by Ursula Todd or refer to Ursula Todd. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hachette edition of Life After Life published in 2013.
Snow (I), 11 Feb 1910 Quotes

No breath. All the world come down to this. One breath […] Panic. The drowning girl, the falling bird.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
Four Seasons... , 11 Feb 1910 Quotes

“God surely wanted this baby back,” Bridget said when she came in later that morning with a cup of steaming beef tea.

“We have been tested,” Sylvie said, “and found not wanting.”

“This time,” Bridget said.

Related Characters: Sylvie Todd (speaker), Bridget (speaker), Ursula Todd, Dr. Fellowes
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
War (I), Jul 1914 Quotes

Motherhood was her responsibility, her destiny. It was, lacking anything else (and what else could there be?), her life.

Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
War (II), 20 Jan 1915 Quotes

Ursula had been about to plunge out of the window in Queen Solange’s wake, intent on delivering her from the no man’s land of the roof, when something made her hesitate. A little doubt, a faltering foot and the thought that the roof was very high and the night very wide.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Adolf Hitler
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Armistice (V), 11 Nov 1918 Quotes

Bridget went flying, toppling down the stairs in a great flurry of arms and legs. Ursula only just managed to stop herself from following in her wake.

Practice makes perfect.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Sylvie Todd, Bridget
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Peace, Feb 1947 Quotes

So much for progress. How quickly civilization could dissolve into its more ugly elements. Look at the Germans, the most cultured and well mannered of people, and yet... Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Like a Fox in a Hole, Sep 1923 Quotes

“There are some Buddhist philosophers (a branch referred to as Zen) who say that sometimes a bad thing happens to prevent a worse thing happening,” Dr. Kellet said. “But, of course, there are some situations where it’s impossible to imagine anything worse.”

Related Characters: Dr. Kellet (speaker), Ursula Todd, Sylvie Todd, Bridget, Adolf Hitler
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
Like a Fox in a Hole, May 1926 Quotes

Ursula had seen her brothers naked, knew what they had between their legs— wrinkled cockles, a little spout—and it seemed to have little to do with this painful piston-driven thing that was now ramming inside her like a weapon of war. Her own body breached. The arch that led to womanhood did not seem so triumphal anymore, merely brutal and completely uncaring.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Maurice Todd, Howie
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
Like a Fox in a Hole, Aug 1926 (I) Quotes

“But he forced himself on you,” she fumed, “how can you think it was your fault?”

“But the consequences...” Ursula murmured.

Sylvie blamed her entirely, of course. “You’ve thrown away your virtue, your character, everyone’s good opinion of you.”

Related Characters: Ursula Todd (speaker), Sylvie Todd (speaker), Pamela Todd (speaker), Hugh Todd, Howie
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:
Like a Fox in a Hole, Jun 1932 Quotes

“Intact?” Ursula echoed, staring at Sylvie in the mirror. What did that mean, that she was flawed? Or broken?

“One’s maidenhood,” Sylvie said. “Deflowering,” she added impatiently when she saw Ursula’s blank expression. “For someone who is far from innocent you seem remarkably naive.”

Related Characters: Ursula Todd (speaker), Sylvie Todd (speaker), Hugh Todd, Derek Oliphant, Howie
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

She no longer recognized herself, she thought. She had taken the wrong path, opened the wrong door, and was unable to find her way back.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Sylvie Todd, Derek Oliphant, Howie
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

Derek’s whole life was a fabrication. [...] What had he wanted from her? Someone weaker than himself? Or a wife, a mother of his children, someone running his house, all the trappings of the vie quotidienne but without any of its underlying chaos.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Derek Oliphant
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (I), Nov 1940 Quotes

“Could you do that? Could you kill a baby? With a gun? Or what if you had no gun, how about with your bare hands? In cold blood.”

If I thought it would save Teddy, Ursula thought. Not just Teddy, of course, the rest of the world, too.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd (speaker), Ralph (speaker), Edward (“Teddy”) Todd, Adolf Hitler
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:
The Land of Begin Again, Aug 1939 Quotes

Most people muddled through events and only in retrospect realized their significance. The Führer was different, he was consciously making history for the future.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Jürgen Fuchs, Adolf Hitler
Page Number: 351
Explanation and Analysis:

“Hindsight’s a wonderful thing,” Klara said. “If we all had it there would be no history to write about.”

Related Characters: Klara Brenner (speaker), Ursula Todd, Jürgen Fuchs, Adolf Hitler
Page Number: 354
Explanation and Analysis:

Powerful men needed their women to be unchallenging, the home should not be an arena for intellectual debate. “My own husband told me this so it must be true!” she wrote to Pamela.

Page Number: 359
Explanation and Analysis:

What had the Fuhrer’s apprenticeship for greatness been? Eva shrugged, she didn’t know. “He’s always been a politician. He was born a politician.” No, Ursula thought, he was born a baby, like everyone else. And this is what he has chosen to become.

Related Characters: Eva Braun (speaker), Ursula Todd, Adolf Hitler
Page Number: 360
Explanation and Analysis:
The Land of Begin Again, Apr 1945 Quotes

She held tightly on to Frieda and soon they were both wrapped in the velvet wings of the black bat and this life was already unreal and gone.

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.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Frieda
Related Symbols: Darkness and the Black Bat
Page Number: 379
Explanation and Analysis:
A Long Hard War, Sep 1940 Quotes

Of course, even Miss Woolf had not imagined how distressing these sights would be when they involved civilians rather than battlefield soldiers, when they involved shoveling up unidentifiable lumps of flesh or picking out the heartbreakingly small limbs of a child from the rubble.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Miss Woolf, Emil
Page Number: 390
Explanation and Analysis:
A Long Hard War, Oct 1940 (I) Quotes

“Yet we must hold fast to what is good and true. But it all seems so random. One wonders about the divine plan and so on.”

“More of a shambles than a plan,” Ursula agreed.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd (speaker), Miss Woolf (speaker), Adolf Hitler, Dr. Kellet
Page Number: 413
Explanation and Analysis:
A Long Hard War, Nov 1940 Quotes

Some hours later they had both woken up at the same time and made love. It was the kind of love (lust, to be honest about it) that survivors of disasters must practice—or people who are anticipating disaster—free of all restraint, savage at times and yet strangely tender and affectionate.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Crighton, Ralph, Fred Smith
Page Number: 441
Explanation and Analysis:
A Long Hard War, May 1941 Quotes

“We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.” (The transformation was complete.)

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

“I think it would be exhausting.”

Related Characters: Ursula Todd (speaker), Edward (“Teddy”) Todd (speaker), Jürgen Fuchs, Adolf Hitler
Page Number: 446
Explanation and Analysis:
A Long Hard War, Jun 1967 Quotes

“An awful lot of people would still be alive.”

“Well, yes, obviously. And the whole cultural face of Europe would be different because of the Jews. […] But perhaps Goering or Himmler would have stepped in. And everything would have happened in just the same way.”

Related Characters: Ursula Todd (speaker), Nigel (speaker), Pamela Todd
Page Number: 473
Explanation and Analysis:
The End of the Beginning Quotes

Become such as you are, having learned what that is. She knew what that was now. She was Ursula Beresford Todd and she was a witness.

She opened her arms to the black bat and they flew to each other, embracing in the air like long-lost souls. This is love, Ursula thought. And the practice of it makes it perfect.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Adolf Hitler
Related Symbols: Darkness and the Black Bat
Page Number: 473
Explanation and Analysis:
The Broad Sunlit Uplands, May 1945 Quotes

Ursula stayed where she was, worried suddenly that if she moved it would all disappear, the whole happy scene break into pieces before her eyes. But then she thought, no, this was real, this was true, and she laughed with uncomplicated joy as Teddy let go of Nancy long enough to stand to attention and give Ursula a smart salute.

Page Number: 525
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ursula Todd Character Timeline in Life After Life

The timeline below shows where the character Ursula Todd appears in Life After Life. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Be Ye Men of Valor (I), November 1930
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
A woman (later revealed to be Ursula Todd) enters a café. At a table at the far end of the room sits... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Ursula eats a pastry as she and Hitler make minimal, polite conversation. She wipes her mouth... (full context)
Snow (I), 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
The chapter begins with Ursula’s birth, describing her as being outside a familiar wet, tropical world and exposed to the... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Sylvie, Ursula’s mother, moans that Dr. Fellowes should have been with her for the birth. Bridget, Sylvie’s... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
...her own umbilical cord. Sylvie asks what they can do, but Bridget tells her that Ursula is already dead. Ursula’s heart has stopped. Darkness falls. (full context)
Snow (II), 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Dr. Fellowes orders Bridget to fetch hot water and towels before handing Ursula over to Sylvie. He tells Sylvie that it was lucky he arrived just in time,... (full context)
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
Bridget, only fourteen, swaddles Ursula. Sylvie thinks about her own life at fourteen, ten years prior. She had been in... (full context)
Four Seasons Fill the Measure of the Year, 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...emergency early that morning—a farmer trampled by a bull—but had checked in on Sylvie and Ursula before he left. Mrs. Glover says she heard the baby almost died. Sylvie thinks that... (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
...Sylvie invites five-year-old Maurice and three-year-old Pamela in to meet their new sister. Maurice pokes Ursula, who wakes up and squawks in alarm. Mrs. Glover pinches Maurice’s ear and asks what... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Later, Bridget brings in a cup of tea and says that God wanted Ursula back. Sylvie comments that they “have been tested […] and found not wanting.” “This time,”... (full context)
Four Seasons Fill the Measure of the Year, May 1910
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
Hugh brings a telegram into the nursery when Sylvie is feeding Ursula a few months later, announcing that Izzie has had her baby. Hugh laments that if... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
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Ursula’s first seasons pass in a swirl of leaves. She observes the turning of the seasons... (full context)
Four Seasons Fill the Measure of the Year, June 1914
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Ursula turns four without further mishap, much to Sylvie’s relief. In June, Sylvie and the four... (full context)
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
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Meanwhile, Pamela and Ursula stop by the water. Pamela jumps over the waves and tells Ursula to do so... (full context)
Snow (III), 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...takes away Sylvie’s breakfast tray, but Sylvie asks her to leave the snowdrop. Sylvie cradles Ursula, thinking what kind of message she will send to Hugh: “Baby has arrived stop all... (full context)
War (I), June 1914
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...paint, thinking that the two little girls down by the water would make good subjects. Ursula and Pamela tread out into the water and Ursula starts to panic. She tries to... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Mr. Winton carries a sopping wet Pamela and Ursula back up the beach, explaining to Sylvie that they went  out a bit too far.... (full context)
War (I), July 1914
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...women go out into the garden to have tea and to admire the new baby. Ursula and the family dog Bosun sit close by, while Maurice tries to teach Pamela how... (full context)
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
Margaret remarks how pretty Ursula is, saying that children are quite droll. Margaret and Lily don’t have children, and Sylvie... (full context)
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...it’s time to go home. As they are about to leave, George gives Pamela and Ursula two baby rabbits to take home. (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...the Coles are Jews, though Hugh had added that they do not practice.) Benjamin Cole, Ursula, and Pamela had found a blackbird’s nest with blue eggs in them, when Maurice had... (full context)
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...go to bed. Hugh and Sylvie are woken early the next morning by Pamela and Ursula, who have discovered that the baby rabbits have been eaten by foxes. (full context)
War (I), January 1915
War and Death Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...knitting to announce that bombs have been dropped on Norfolk, before shouting to Maurice and Ursula upstairs that their tea is on the table. As she sits down at the table,... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
Ursula, despite her clumsy fingers, has also joined the household knitting frenzy. She received a knitting... (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
Ursula hears Bridget’s call to tea but ignores her, since she is in the middle of... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Ursula pulls a chair over to the window and sees Queen Solange stuck between two of... (full context)
War (II), 20 January 1915
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Bridget comes into the nursery with Teddy, telling Ursula to get down from the window. Ursula had been about to jump onto the roof... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
...if they’re eating Henrietta, a chicken of theirs that was very old. This question disconcerts Ursula and Pamela. Sylvie warns Maurice about his manners before assuring the girls that the chicken... (full context)
Armistice (I), June 1918
War and Death Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...later, it is Teddy’s fourth birthday, and Sylvie has prepared a surprise party. Bridget, Pamela, Ursula, and Teddy go to deliver jam to Mrs. Dodds while Sylvie gets the party ready.... (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
...off on his bicycle to spend the day with friends, completely uninterested in Pamela’s and Ursula’s lives. Teddy, on the other hand, is loyal and affectionate like a dog. Clarence meets... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
The Todds return home, and Ursula is nearly as surprised as Teddy by the party, having forgotten all about it. The... (full context)
Armistice (I), 11 November 1918
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...their new neighbors, Major Shawcross and Mrs. Shawcross. They have five daughters, which excites Pamela, Ursula, and Teddy, as there are no other girls their age in the neighborhood. (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
...celebrations. They invite Mrs. Glover, who declines due to the influenza epidemic. Later that night, Ursula is woken by Bridget’s return, and she wakes Pamela. Downstairs, Bridget and Clarence regale them... (full context)
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
The next morning, Ursula is burning hot and aching all over; Bridget is also sick. Ursula’s breathing is harsh... (full context)
Armistice (II), 12 November 1918
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Ursula is woken by Bridget and Clarence’s noisy return from London. Ursula’s first instinct is to... (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
...stripped when anyone notices Teddy’s absence. Teddy doesn’t respond to his name being called, and Ursula looks in his favorite hiding spaces. She is unable to find him anywhere, and tries... (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
Ursula, despite all instinct, enters Bridget’s room and finds Teddy on Bridget’s bed. He says that... (full context)
Snow (VI), 11 February 1910
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Sylvie lights a candle; Ursula is asleep in her cradle. Sylvie thinks to herself that childbirth is a brutal affair.... (full context)
Armistice (III), 11 November 1918
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Ursula (pretending to be Sylvie) writes a note to Bridget telling her that a gang of... (full context)
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The next morning, Sylvie asks Ursula about the note, but Ursula denies having written it. Sylvie tells her that Pamela has... (full context)
Snow (VII), 11 February 1910
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Bridget and Mrs. Glover discuss Ursula’s birth and wonder whether Sylvie will stop at three children. After giving Dr. Fellowes breakfast,... (full context)
Armistice (V), 11 November 1918
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Sylvie explains to Ursula what “déjà vu” means, and that it is a trick of the mind. Ursula increasingly... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Pamela and Ursula spend the morning in the garden, surrounded by the rabbits (Ursula had convinced her to... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
...of the stairs, thinking of Clarence and how they will be married in the spring. Ursula creeps towards Bridget, and pushes her down the stairs. “Practice makes perfect,” she thinks. (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...declares Bridget’s arm broken. Bridget says that someone pushed her, and Sylvie interrogates the children. Ursula says nothing when Sylvie asks if she did it. She knows Bridget might have died,... (full context)
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...is a great commotion at the front door. Teddy runs to see, reporting back to Ursula that Sylvie is kissing a man, and they’re both crying. Ursula looks out and says... (full context)
Peace, February 1947
War and Death Theme Icon
Ursula returns home to her flat, exhausted from the war and freezing from the cold of... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Ursula’s flat is one room, and Ursula misses the old apartment she and Millie had shared... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...a note, but to her family, her intentions had been quite clear. Pamela had told Ursula at the funeral that she used to argue with Sylvie because Sylvie said that science... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Ursula lights the gas fire to boil an egg, though there is very little gas pressure.... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Ursula puts a record on her gramophone: “I’d Rather Be Dead and Buried in My Grave.”... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
Ursula brings her plate to the sink, and the electricity goes out. She takes the bottle... (full context)
Snow (IX), 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
...settles into the “perfect little cat-sized bed, already warmed by a perfect little cat-sized cushion.” Ursula begins to suffocate, unable to breathe under Queenie’s body, until Sylvie grabs the cat and... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...is sipping a third glass of rum. She had been on her way to deliver Ursula when the snow had forced her to take refuge in a pub. The barkeep tells... (full context)
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...her own umbilical cord. Sylvie asks what they can do, but Bridget tells her that Ursula is already dead. Sylvie refuses to accept this and grabs a pair of surgical scissors... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, September 1923
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
Thirteen-year-old Ursula has lunch with Izzie and catches her up on her life. Ursula tells her that... (full context)
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...cut their hair, and in response Pamela had gone immediately to shear it off. To Ursula, Izzie’s column seems to be nothing more than a diary of Izzie’s personal life with... (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the family has a new addition: Jimmy. His arrival had made Ursula feel as though she was being pushed further and further away from the heart of... (full context)
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The novel flashes backward three years. Ten-year-old Ursula had been introduced to Dr. Kellet after she pushed Bridget down the stairs. At their... (full context)
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The novel briefly returns to when Ursula is thirteen: at the restaurant, Izzie pays for lunch and takes Ursula on a tour... (full context)
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Dr. Kellet explains to ten-year-old Ursula that reincarnation means beginning a new life—though he points out that Buddhists don’t believe that... (full context)
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...Dr. Kellet himself had had a son, Guy, who died in the war. One day Ursula saw a man in the waiting room sob on the shoulder of the receptionist. Ursula... (full context)
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Dr. Kellet theorizes that Ursula’s brain is perhaps a little stuck, leading her to think that she is repeating experiences.... (full context)
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Ursula is thirteen again: in London, Izzie and Ursula arrive in Izzie’s apartment, where everything is... (full context)
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Dr. Kellet asks ten-year-old Ursula if she has heard of “amor fati,” which means acceptance of fate, not thinking of... (full context)
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In bed that night, Pamela and Ursula discuss Ursula’s trip to London. Ursula does not mention, however, that she had witnessed a... (full context)
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...a car—particularly that she can avoid being followed down a dark street by a stranger. Ursula does not see Izzie again until Christmas, when she comes to the house “in a... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, December 1923
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The children are decorating the house for Christmas, and Ursula and Teddy go outside in search of holly. Their dog Trixie (Bosun had died a... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, 11 February 1926 (I)
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Hugh wishes Ursula happy sixteenth birthday, saying that her future is all ahead of her (even though Ursula... (full context)
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Izzie arrives and brings gifts for Ursula. Ursula hasn’t really seen Izzie since she spent a weekend in Fox Corner when she... (full context)
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...book has become very successful, giving Izzie a new income. After the gifts are done, Ursula walks Millie home. (full context)
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On the way back, Ursula trips over Howie, digging through the bushes trying to find Teddy’s ball. Howie offers to... (full context)
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Ursula returns to the house and finds Teddy, gloomy because the boys lost his ball. He... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, May 1926
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...up again with Howie in tow, stopping at the house on their way to London. Ursula has thought of Howie frequently, though upon seeing him she realizes he does not know... (full context)
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Howie finishes and bounds down the stairs, completely unphased by what has just happened. Ursula is left to stare at the floral wallpaper—wisteria. She descends a half hour later, once... (full context)
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...are dances in the village hall on Friday evenings, and Fred Smith is waltzing with Ursula when the memory of the back stairs overwhelms her. She steps outside for air, feeling... (full context)
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...for a few weeks before going off to train as a barrister. He comments that Ursula looks like a heifer, and a realization dawns on Ursula. She hunts down Sylvie’s copy... (full context)
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Ursula finds a medical encyclopedia, which explains the mechanics of sex and its consequences. Ursula realizes... (full context)
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Izzie phones Hugh, explaining that Ursula had shown up at her door and would be staying with her for a few... (full context)
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Izzie takes Ursula to a large house in Belgravia, dropping her off and promising that she would return... (full context)
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That night, Ursula vomits and develops a fever. The world blurs until Hugh appears, smiling at her and... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, August 1926 (I)
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Ursula becomes extremely depressed, and she decides to do a typing and short-hand course rather than... (full context)
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Ursula cuts her hair one day as penance. That night at the dinner table, Major Shawcross... (full context)
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Pamela leaves for Leeds, hugging Ursula tightly before she goes. Ursula does not return to school in the fall, and no... (full context)
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...“lightly on their shoulders,” and sometimes he makes them practice typing blindfolded. On these occasions, Ursula hears him making “wheezes and grunts” but is too afraid to see what he is... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, June 1932
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Six years later, Pamela happily marries a man named Harold. Ursula lives on her own, though no one knows this. Her roommate, Hilda, has moved out... (full context)
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Living alone, Ursula realizes how few friends she has—her friendship with Millie didn’t survive Nancy’s death. Ursula works... (full context)
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The drinking started when Pamela came to stay for a weekend prior to her wedding. Ursula planned to make a boeuf bourguignon for her, which required burgundy. A wine merchant picked... (full context)
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A few months after Pamela’s wedding, Ursula trips (sober) on her way home from work, slamming her nose into the pavement. The... (full context)
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...a history teacher, and their courtship consists of long bike rides and visiting pleasant pubs—though Ursula stops drinking as suddenly as she started. Mostly, she is relieved that someone wants to... (full context)
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Ursula and Derek marry in a registrar’s office, witnessed only by Hugh, Sylvie, and Derek’s mother.... (full context)
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Ursula and Derek move into a house close to his school, which Derek had bought and... (full context)
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On the first night of their honeymoon, Derek seems not to notice that Ursula is not “intact.” He brags rather pompously that he is “not inexperienced” when it comes... (full context)
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Ursula’s job becomes one of keeping house, making sure everything is washed, scrubbed, dusted, folded, ironed,... (full context)
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Ursula is expected to have breakfast on the table at exactly the right time, in exactly... (full context)
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After several months, Ursula feels as though she might go mad if she doesn’t get a pastime, and so... (full context)
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One afternoon, Ursula and Derek go to his mother’s house. Derek is dispatched on several jobs around the... (full context)
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Another afternoon, Pamela visits Ursula at home. She is the first in Ursula’s family to visit, as Ursula has been... (full context)
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The next day, Derek scolds Ursula for the breakfast she makes, saying sarcastically that she does nothing all day (except play... (full context)
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Derek gives Ursula money to buy a hat for “sports day”—an event at his school. When she goes... (full context)
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Derek walks up to Ursula, saying “hello, dear,” and kissing her on the cheek. Ursula can’t help but burst out... (full context)
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That evening, Derek stays at school for dinner. Ursula goes into his “study” (what had once been the dining room) to see his work,... (full context)
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At that moment, Derek returns home, asking Ursula what she’s doing. She calls him a liar, and asks him why he married her.... (full context)
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Ursula arrives at Izzie’s apartment. Izzie is horrified to see Ursula’s beaten face and invites her... (full context)
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Ursula tells her family that she’d gone away for the summer, but Teddy is able to... (full context)
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Ursula dozes off with her head on Teddy’s shoulder, still tremendously tired, until the doorbell rings.... (full context)
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Ursula cannot see because of the blood in her eyes, but she can hear Teddy and... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, 11 February 1926 (II)
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Ursula punches Howie in the face. He protests that he only wanted a kiss, saying he... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, August 1926 (II)
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Ursula is reading Chéri beneath the apple trees, when Sylvie happens upon her. Sylvie says she... (full context)
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Izzie arrives, commenting on how grown up Ursula looks now that she’s sixteen. Izzie reveals that she eloped when she was sixteen, which... (full context)
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Ursula steals an apple from the kitchen and then gets a pang of terror. Instinctively, she... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (I), 2 September 1939
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Ursula is visiting Pamela at her home in Finchley, London. Pamela is pregnant again, this time... (full context)
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Ursula also has a job in the Home Office. After school she had not gone to... (full context)
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Ursula had then gotten a job in the Home Office, rising through the ranks in various... (full context)
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Pamela has spent the morning organizing evacuees from London. Ursula wonders whether Pamela will stay in the city, and tells her she should go to... (full context)
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Pamela asks how “The Man from the Admiralty” is. Ursula has been involved with Crighton for a year. He is fifteen years older than Ursula,... (full context)
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...“seen much,” but his life had become rather boring following World War I; he told Ursula that she brought excitement to his life. He had also become remorseful over the secretive... (full context)
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...depressed, thinking that this is probably their last day of normal life for a while. Ursula herself was supposed to go on holiday, but instead she had stocked up on supplies,... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (I), November 1940
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Ursula is on her back in a pool of water. She smells sewage, plaster, brick dust,... (full context)
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Ursula has gotten to know her neighbors over the previous year: Lavinia and Ruth Nesbit, two... (full context)
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Recently Ursula had visited Pamela, who gave birth to another boy, Gerald. Pamela had been terribly bored... (full context)
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Ursula is no longer seeing Crighton—the declaration of war had made him guilty, and they had... (full context)
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Instead, Ursula had begun a relationship with a fellow student from her German class—Ralph. Ralph had fought... (full context)
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One day when Ursula ran into Maurice at her job, he told her with distaste that it might not... (full context)
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In the present, Ursula looks around the wreckage, and can see that most of the wall between her apartment... (full context)
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The previous day Crighton had sent Ursula a note, asking if she had seen a gold engraved cigarette case that belonged to... (full context)
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Ursula is very fond of Ralph—not in love with him, but finds him very dependable. Sitting... (full context)
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...the day after war was declared. He is now in Canada, learning how to fly. Ursula wishes he could stay over there forever. (full context)
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Ursula had told Ralph abruptly that the raids would be starting soon, and that he’d better... (full context)
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...gather in the Millers’ cellar. A tremendous explosion rocks the cellar and everyone goes quiet. Ursula’s heart thumps, and she thinks of Jimmy, who had recently had a few days’ leave... (full context)
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In the present, Ursula doesn’t know how long she’s been lying in the pool. Mrs. Appleyard, covered in dirt,... (full context)
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A man’s voice (later revealed to be Mr. Emslie) breaks the silence, as he tells Ursula that there are people trying to get her out. She tries to speak but her... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (II), 2 September 1939
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Ursula leaves Pamela and Harold’s house, and when she returns home she tries on the yellow... (full context)
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That evening Ursula meets Crighton (summoned by a coy note) for dinner at the Savoy. She wears one... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (II), April 1940
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Maurice picks up Ursula at Egerton Gardens to take her to Fox Corner for Hugh’s birthday—though she knows he... (full context)
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At dinner, Izzie asks Ursula if she’s met any nice men. Maurice makes fun of Ursula saying she’s been “left... (full context)
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Ursula interrupts Maurice to say that she doesn’t feel “on the shelf,” and wishes that Crighton... (full context)
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Sylvie and Izzie spend the rest of the dinner irritated with each other, while Ursula and Jimmy pointedly try to wish Hugh a happy birthday with the wishbone. Amnesty is... (full context)
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Ursula returns to Crighton and tells him tales of the day as they lie in bed... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (II), November 1940
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Ursula and Jimmy spend a few days together in London while he is on leave. When... (full context)
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Ursula is exceptionally busy at work, logging all of the bomb incidents, their damage, and how... (full context)
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Ursula arrives at Argyll road with the baby clothes, and Mrs. Appleyard introduces her to Emil.... (full context)
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At that moment, a siren begins, and Ursula, Ruth, and Lavinia start to make their way to the cellar. Lavinia announces she must... (full context)
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In the darkness, a man (Mr. Emslie) calls her “Susie.” Ursula chokes on ash and dust, sensing that something inside her was “torn beyond repair.” She... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (III), September 1940
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Ursula misses Crighton. He had invited her to dinner the night before the war was declared... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (III), November 1940
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Ursula can hear Mrs. Appleyard trying to soothe Emil. Ursula feels alone, wishing for a warm... (full context)
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Ursula runs outside and grabs the dog. She then hears the loudest bang she’s ever heard.... (full context)
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Ursula stumbles into the street. Two firemen—one of whom looks like (and is later revealed to... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (III), August 1926
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Ursula is once again reading under an apple tree, this time reading Die Marquise von O.... (full context)
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Sylvie comes over asks if Ursula really wants to pursue a degree Modern Languages. Ursula says she intends to live in... (full context)
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Ursula takes a walk before dinner, and feels very hopeful about the future. She is sixteen,... (full context)
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Ursula walks to the train station and encounters Nancy on the way back. They are then... (full context)
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Ursula is elated, but her thoughts are interrupted by a rough-looking man who asks her the... (full context)
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On Saturday, the party is a disappointment. Ursula feels invisible most of the time, and Benjamin barely pays her any attention. She eats... (full context)
The Land of Begin Again, August 1933
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Ursula and her friend Klara have been waiting on the side of the road for hours,... (full context)
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Ursula has recently graduated with a degree in Modern Languages, and Germany is part of an... (full context)
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Ursula and Millie had talked about her plans, with Millie expressing surprise that Ursula wanted to... (full context)
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On the train to Germany, Ursula shares a compartment with a man who alternates between smoking and eating salami, who then... (full context)
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Ursula arrives in Germany, where she is staying with Herr Brenner, Frau Brenner, and their daughters... (full context)
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Klara shows Ursula a school that Hitler had founded, explaining that he’s very keen on “the Party”—the only... (full context)
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Ursula spends time alternately sunbathing with boys wearing small swim trunks on hot afternoons and drinking... (full context)
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Hilde and Hanne convince Ursula and Klara to come with them to a rally of the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth). There... (full context)
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Ursula and Klara chaperone the BDM (the girls’ version of the Hitler Youth) on another trip... (full context)
The Land of Begin Again, August 1939
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Six years later, Ursula is at the grand Berghof, and Eva Braun (Hitler’s mistress) is playing with Ursula’s five-year-old... (full context)
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Ursula describes Frieda as the center of her heart, and Ursula knows that she would be... (full context)
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Eva takes lots of pictures of Ursula and Frieda, and Ursula imagines a future time in which someone leafs through Eva’s albums... (full context)
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At Hitler’s birthday parade, Ursula had been amazed by the theatrics, the precision, and the weaponry. Jürgen commented that the... (full context)
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Frieda had grown very ill several weeks prior, quickly become feverish and delirious, and Ursula and Jürgen had rushed her to the nearest hospital. Ursula stayed by her side for... (full context)
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Ursula had never met Eva. Eva knew of her through Klara, as they used to work... (full context)
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When Hitler is not at the Berg, Ursula notes that Eva doesn’t really know what to do with herself. Ursula sees Eva as... (full context)
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Ursula asks Eva one day how Hitler became the great leader he is. Eva says that... (full context)
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When Ursula and Frieda had arrived at the Berghof, Hitler himself had greeted them and invited them... (full context)
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Ursula thinks of Klara, whom she had not seen for many years. When Frieda was born... (full context)
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At the Berg, Ursula is forced to listen to concerts and watch films of Hitler’s choosing, after which he... (full context)
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Ursula tells Eva one day at lunch that she thinks Frieda is well enough to go... (full context)
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That night at supper, Ursula could barely swallow. Jürgen told her that he wanted to take a holiday to Sylt—where... (full context)
The Land of Begin Again, April 1945
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Ursula lives in a cellar in Berlin with Frieda, sheltered from the British and American bombs.... (full context)
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Ursula wonders if it is Teddy bombing her. She hopes it is—it would mean that he... (full context)
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Jürgen had died in a raid in 1944. Ursula had been relived, but was ashamed of this reaction given how Frieda was so upset.... (full context)
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Ursula gives all she can to her daughter, but knows that Frieda would not survive without... (full context)
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Ursula decides to move back in to the apartment, despite the fact that it is completely... (full context)
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There is a rumor going around that Hitler has committed suicide. Ursula thinks about him “strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage,” and wonders to what... (full context)
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Frieda has a fever and chills. Ursula sees that there is no way she could survive an exodus west, as other people... (full context)
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When Ursula returns from the chemist, she finds Frieda slipping in and out of consciousness. Ursula soothes... (full context)
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When Ursula is sure that Frieda is asleep, she places a little glass capsule in Frieda’s mouth... (full context)
A Long Hard War, September 1940
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Ursula is in Hyde Park, working with a rescue team from the Air Raid Precautions (ARP)... (full context)
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Ursula looks around; the street is unrecognizable. She and others form a human chain to climb... (full context)
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Ursula’s fellow ARP wardens are “a mixed bunch”: the senior warden, Miss Woolf, is a retired... (full context)
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...a woman who had clung to the walls of the cellar, but unable to grasp Ursula’s hand, she had disappeared beneath the water. When they finally pumped out the place, fifteen... (full context)
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In the present, Miss Woolf calls Ursula over to a hole in another mound of rubble, where someone small can wriggle through.... (full context)
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In the course of a few hours, Ursula splints a broken arm, bandages a head wound, and patches an eye. She labels two... (full context)
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As daylight breaks, Ursula sees that the whole street is more or less gone. At a large pile of... (full context)
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Ursula starts to walk home and discovers Miss Woolf giving commands to people, still cheerful—even though... (full context)
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That Saturday, Ursula goes to Fox Corner and shares a nice dinner with Pamela and Sylvie. For most... (full context)
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...to quarrel, as Sylvie asks whether Hugh still lives there because she never sees him. Ursula changes the subject by blurting out that she is dating a young man named Ralph.... (full context)
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Later, Hugh and Ursula share a drink as they talk about the worsening conditions in London and all across... (full context)
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At the station, Ursula says goodbye to Hugh, promising to take care of herself. Fred Smith offers Ursula a... (full context)
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Fred walks Ursula to the front gates of King’s Cross, and she remembers having a crush on Fred... (full context)
A Long Hard War, October 1940 (I)
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A full-scale raid is in progress, bombers droning overhead and shells whistling by. Ursula, Miss Woolf, and Mr. Simms are sitting on the roof of a house, watching green,... (full context)
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Ralph lives in Holborn, but Ursula knows he is on the night watch at St. Paul’s cathedral. He had given her... (full context)
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The rescue squad returns to their own sector, and Ursula keeps watch with Miss Woolf in Ursula’s apartment. Miss Woolf believes in the war, but... (full context)
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Miss Woolf and Ursula are both terribly depressed, as Mr. Palmer has recently been killed by a delayed-action bomb... (full context)
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Ursula had seen Jimmy a few weeks prior, and they had spent a night on the... (full context)
A Long Hard War, October 1940 (II)
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Ursula, Pamela, and Sylvie stand over the open grave, Sylvie so consumed by grief that she... (full context)
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...died of a heart attack while sitting in a deckchair on the lawn. Izzie tells Ursula that he looked peaceful. After the funeral, Ursula and Izzie have little conversation with Sylvie,... (full context)
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Later, Ursula is collecting eggs from the henhouse when Izzie interrupts her, confessing rather abruptly that she... (full context)
A Long Hard War, November 1940
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...then Herr Zimmerman plays Bach for them on his violin. The performance is beautiful, and Ursula finds herself thinking about Hugh’s death. She is gripped by melancholy, and Miss Woolf takes... (full context)
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...“peace [is] broken” by a warning—“bombers within twenty minutes.” The barrage begins; by the time Ursula and the team arrive at Argyll Road, all the various rescue squads have assembled. All... (full context)
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They are greeted by a “grisly tableau”: many limbless torsos. Ursula sees a dress before she realizes there is a woman wearing it, her head and... (full context)
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Mr. Emslie is in the cellar of a house, and Miss Woolf instructs Ursula to bring him a morphia tablet for a girl who is screaming. When the girl... (full context)
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They discover more dead: men, women, and even a dog. Ursula is reminded of Pompeii, which she had visited on a tour of Europe she had... (full context)
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Mr. Emslie shakes Ursula from her reverie. As they move forward on their knees, Ursula realizes that she is... (full context)
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When Ursula emerges from the cellar, she spots a dog cowering in a doorway. When she approaches... (full context)
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Just then, Ursula runs into Fred Smith, who is enraged rather than grieving over the needless deaths of... (full context)
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Fred offers to walk Ursula home. They set out, hand in hand, the dog walking behind them, but instead of... (full context)
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Ursula returns home, telling Millie about her time with Fred. She says she is a bit... (full context)
A Long Hard War, May 1941
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...of 1940; Ralph helps save St. Paul’s from a fire. The rest of the time, Ursula and Ralph continue with their lives; going to the movies, dancing, concerts, eating, drinking, making... (full context)
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Ursula meets up with Crighton and returns his cigarette case. When Ursula tells him where she... (full context)
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Teddy returns from training, and he and Ursula visit a World War I war memorial together. Teddy thinks that he will probably die... (full context)
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...names (and all of the lives lost). He wonders what’s wrong with the human race. Ursula says that there’s no use thinking about it; people can only “get on with life.”... (full context)
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Teddy takes Ursula for a drink. He doesn’t want to talk about flying, about the war, or even... (full context)
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Teddy is going up to Fox Corner the next morning, and Ursula insists that he take Lucky with him. Even though the raids are more sporadic, London... (full context)
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In May, there is a terrible raid, and Ursula and Millie’s apartment is hit (though neither of them are in it at the time).... (full context)
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In the same raid, Herr Zimmerman and Mr. Simms are killed. At the funeral, Ursula finds Fred Smith and they rent a room at a nearby hotel and have sex.... (full context)
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Ursula realizes that she has become very morbid since Argyll Road; it has affected her in... (full context)
A Long Hard War, November 1943
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Maurice visits Ursula at her office. She has no idea what he could possibly be there for, until... (full context)
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Ursula feels like she’s going to faint, and her assistant promptly brings her a glass of... (full context)
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...“missing in action” to “missing, presumed dead.” Nancy is there as well, and she tells Ursula that she will always love Teddy. She also says that she cannot cry because her... (full context)
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Nancy asks Ursula to find out if there’s even a chance Teddy could still be alive, so Izzie... (full context)
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On the car ride home, Ursula thinks that she might kill herself, but that she can’t bring herself to leave the... (full context)
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Maurice is livid at Sylvie’s will. Jimmy is indifferent, and Ursula is somewhat upset but is glad that Pamela is the one keeping the house. The... (full context)
A Long Hard War, February 1947
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Ursula writes a postcard to Pamela, thanking her for the food from Fox Corner. She sets... (full context)
A Long Hard War, June 1967
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Ursula is watching the BBC. The Jordanians opened fire on Tel Aviv that morning, the reporter... (full context)
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Ursula and Benjamin had met up briefly for a drink during the war, but it had... (full context)
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Ursula has just returned from her retirement party, which consisted of drinks at a pub. Her... (full context)
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Ursula’s colleagues had gifted her with a set of tickets to a performance of Beethoven’s Choral.... (full context)
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Ursula feels old, though Pamela insists that she’s not old yet—she’s not even sixty. Once Pamela’s... (full context)
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Ursula realizes now that she wishes she had a child of her own. She had never... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Ursula is having lunch with Pamela’s first-born son, Nigel, who is a history tutor. Ursula argues... (full context)
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Ursula walks back from lunch through a park, remarking at how young people these days have... (full context)
The End of the Beginning
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...had. Hugh is fond of him, though: Roland is calm, not like Maurice and Pamela. Ursula is completely different, watching everything around her. (full context)
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...forward. Mr. Winton’s easel is set up to face the sea. He watches Pamela and Ursula making a sand castle on the beach. Roland is sent to scour the beach for... (full context)
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...limp. As a variety of strangers try to revive Roland, Pamela comes over and holds Ursula’s hand. (full context)
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Time jumps forward again. Ursula addresses Bridget, chopping onions in the kitchen. She tells her that she was just in... (full context)
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Ursula constantly gets premonitions of events. Once, years earlier, when she had heard Maurice approaching her... (full context)
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Sylvie takes Ursula to a psychiatrist, Dr. Kellet, on account of her constant headaches and sense of “déjà... (full context)
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...that time is a construct, and that there is only now, no past or present. Ursula then asks Dr. Kellet where the picture is of Guy (his son) but Dr. Kellet... (full context)
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At Ursula’s sixteenth birthday, she walks Millie back to her house. On the return home, Benjamin Cole... (full context)
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Six months later, Ursula is reading under the apple tree again—this time English poetry. Sylvie tells her she doesn’t... (full context)
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Maurice appears, completely bored. Ursula asks him to teach her to shoot, to which he replies that girls can’t shoot.... (full context)
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Ursula then says she is going to meet Hugh at the train station, but really she... (full context)
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Ursula tells Benjamin she should probably be getting back for dinner. On their return, they see... (full context)
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In October on a break from university, Ursula stays with Izzie for a few days. She and Izzie are having tea in South... (full context)
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When Ursula wakes, she’s in a white room with Dr. Kellet. He says that they thought she’d... (full context)
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Ursula enjoys her brief time at the sanitorium. A few days later, she and Dr. Kellet... (full context)
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Ursula lies awake in her bed and formulates a plan. She will study German, take a... (full context)
Be Ye Men of Valor (II), December 1930
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Ursula knows that Eva likes fashion and makeup and gossip. She goes to the skating rink... (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
Ursula enters a café in Munich in December of 1930. Sitting at a table at the... (full context)
The Broad Sunlit Uplands, May 1945
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
Teddy phones Nancy from the pub. A half hour later, Nancy arrives with Ursula. Nancy runs and throws her arms around him, and then Teddy gives Ursula a salute.... (full context)
Snow (X), 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...is sipping a third glass of rum. She had been on her way to deliver Ursula when the snow had forced her to take refuge in a pub. The barkeep tells... (full context)