Life After Life

Life After Life

by

Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life: The Broad Sunlit Uplands, May 1945 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Teddy and a friend, Vic, are at a pub in London, having hitchhiked with an American ship from Le Havre to England. Teddy had been shot down in November 1943 in Berlin, escaping and releasing his parachute just in time. He had fractured an ankle and was taken to Stalag Luft VI in the east. It could have been worse, but he and the other prisoners were taken in February and made to march west, away from the advancing Russians, for days on end on starvation rations. He wondered for two years if anyone from home knew he was alive. He was on the road outside Hamburg when the war ended.
Atkinson ties up an alternate loose ending, which complicates the finality and gravity of Ursula’s previous life (killing Hitler). Teddy’s surviving the war necessitates that the war happened at all, and the fact that Ursula is still alive in this chapter means that in this timeline, she did not try to kill Hitler. Thus, it is left ambiguous whether Ursula feels that her sacrifice is one worth making, particularly when she doesn’t know the consequences of her actions.
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities 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. He shouts something across the pub to her, but she has a hard time hearing. She thinks he has said, “Thank you.”
Ursula meeting Teddy at the pub signifies perhaps the most idealistic version of events, because she is able to see him alive once more. This forces readers to evaluate what they believe is Ursula’s most satisfying or fulfilling life: like her, they have to determine whether it is more meaningful to try to prevent World War II or to reunite with the person she loves the most.
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
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