Life After Life

Life After Life


Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life: Four Seasons... , Jun 1914 Summary & Analysis

Ursula turns four without further mishap, much to Sylvie’s relief. In June, Sylvie and the four children (they have a new addition named Teddy) rent a house in Cornwall for the month to vacation by the beach. Hugh stays with them for the first week; Bridget remains with them for the remaining three.
Again, the distinctions in gender roles become clear: Hugh leaves vacation early to return to work, while Sylvie and Bridget are left to take care of the children.
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One day at the beach, the children return from fishing while Sylvie and Bridget lay on the beach, reading. Maurice comes sprinting back and throws himself down into the sand holding a small crab, spraying Sylvie and Bridget. Sylvie admonishes Maurice for his manners. He is going to boarding school after the summer, which makes her feel rather relieved.
Even though Sylvie is aghast at Maurice’s violence and rudeness and tries to admonish him, throughout his childhood she still allows him to run wild and free, reinforcing the idea that boys have a lot more leeway in their activities and their behavior than girls do.
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Meanwhile, Pamela and Ursula stop by the water. Pamela jumps over the waves and tells Ursula to do so as well. Ursula thinks that Pamela is bossy in a nice way, and she is nearly always happy to do as Pamela says. Pamela and Ursula wade further and further into the water until a huge wave crashes over their heads. Ursula feels herself pulled deeper and deeper and cannot find purchase on the sand. She starts to choke, drowning in the water. Darkness falls.
Ursula is Pamela’s constant companion, and this episode highlights the trust and confidence that Ursula places in her older sister, which carries on throughout the rest of the novel (even though, in this particular instance, a fated wave leads to Ursula’s death).
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