Book reviews

The Perils of Ursula Todd: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Ursula pulls the revolver from her handbag in the Munich café.  “Für Sie, Führer,” she says. She pulls the trigger.  Not quick enough.

Ursula is born.  Ursula dies with the umbilical wrapped around her neck. 

Ursula is blue and choking.  The umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck.  Mother reaches for her scissors.  Snip.  Ursula can breathe. 

Cat is on the prowl for a cushy pillow.  Cat pads over to sleeping baby; settles on Ursula. Little Bear.. can’t… breathe; needs…. air.

Ursula is born blue and choking.  Mom reaches for the scissors.  Snip.  Cat is shooed from sleeping baby. 

Ursula and her sister, building castles on the strand; wading into the waves.  Too far.  Ursula can’t swim; can’t keep her head above water. 

Ursula born choking and blue.  Mom snips umbilical.  Cat shooed.  Wading.  Amateur painter spies girl struggling in the water; bounds into water to save girl. 

W.W. I. begins; ends.  Maid celebrates Victory Day in London; catches influenza; infects Ursula’s younger brother Teddy.  Maid and Teddy die. 

Blue Little Bear.  Snip.  Shoo.  Too much wading.  Painter-lifeguard to the rescue.  W.W. I. begins; ends.  Little Bear writes maid letter dissuading her from attending Victory Day parade.  Maid attends anyway; infected with influenza.  Maid and Teddy die. 

Blue.  Snip.  Shoo.  Water rescue.  W.W. I. begins; ends.  Ursula pushes maid downstairs.  Maid breaks legs, arm; doesn’t attend parade.  No influenza. 

Obnoxious oaf has his way with Ursula.  No longer “intact” Ursula packed off to aunt in London.  Pregnancy taken care of.  Despondent Ursula completes dreary secretarial course; takes to the bottle; bloodies her nose on the pavement.  Brooding young man picks Ursula off the pavement.  Courtship.  Marriage.  Brooding young husband must have boiled eggs for breakfast on Wednesday, fried eggs on Thursday, kippers on Friday.  Brooding husband takes to bloodying Ursula’s nose.  Ursula seeks refuge at aunt’s.  Husband chases her down, discovers Ursula and Teddy having tea; bashes in Teddy’s head; bashes in Ursula’s. 

Blue.  Snip.  Cat.  Painter.  Victory Day with broken bones.  Ursula elbows obnoxious young rapist; remains intact; continues learning Latin, Greek; no marriage to brooding young man.  Travels to France, Italy.  Coffee and Torten in Munich.  Little Bear makes friends with a shop girl named Eva; introduced to Eva’s paramour, a chap named Adolf with a tiny mustache.  Bad stuff goes down.  W.W. II.  Camps.  Deaths.  Bombs. 

Blue.  Snip.  Cat.  Painter.  Victory Day with busted bones.  Rapist elbowed.  Germanic studies in lieu of Latin and Greek.  Target practice.  Coffee and Torten in Munich.  Ursula pulls trigger on Eva’s beau, the dumpy fellow fingering his Schnurrbart.  Not quick enough.  Herr Schurrbart’s bodyguards shoot Ursula first. 

Back to blue. 




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