Life After Life BBC

BBC’s Life After Life: why you need to watch the star-studded adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s bestselling novel

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The BBC is adding another literary adaptation to its list with Life After Life, its new drama based on Kate Atkinson’s best-selling novel. The first episode airs tonight (19 April) – here’s what to expect.

When it comes to book-to-TV adaptations, the BBC certainly knows what it’s doing. 

From this year’s hotly-anticipated depiction of Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends to its take on Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist and JP Delaney’s The Girl Before, the channel is home to a long list of brilliant literary adaptations across a wide range of genres.  

And now, the BBC is adding another stand-out title to its list with its star-studded adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s bestselling novel, Life After Life. The first episode airs tonight (19 April) at 9pm on BBC Two – and its safe to say we’re very excited.

Besides the fact that the book is hugely popular – it was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and won a Costa Book Award in 2013 – its gripping plot and supernatural elements make it perfect BBC drama material, and we can’t wait to see how it converts to the screen.

The compelling story follows Ursula Todd as she lives through several different lives. How so? Well, she dies and is then reborn over and over again, meaning her life takes a very different turn each time. 

The BBC Two series explores her experiences as a victim of domestic abuse, living through the 1918 Spanish influenza, as translator in Germany during the second world war and also, as an air raid warden volunteer in the Blitz. Leading the cast as Todd is Thomasin McKenzie, who is best known for her performances in Leave No Trace and Jojo Rabbit.

Earlier this year, we got an exciting first-look image from the series:

BBC Life After Life Thomasin McKenzie
Thomasin McKenzie will be leading the cast of BBC's Life After Life.

“Ethereal” and “iconic” are just two words that spring to mind on seeing the image – providing just a hint of what we can expect from this captivating new drama

We can already anticipate a tear or two with this upcoming series but honestly, we can’t wait to get stuck into this compelling new show with McKenzie at its helm.

With that, here’s everything you need to know about Life After Life.  

What’s the plot of Life After Life?

Life After Life follows the story of Ursula Todd, a young girl who is born one night in 1910, but dies before she is able to take her first breath. 

However, this doesn’t mark the end of her story, as on the same night in 1910 she is reborn and survives – an event that unfolds time and time again as she lives and dies in alternative iterations of her existence.

Life After Life follows Ursula as she navigates each new life at her fingertips, across a period that spans two world wars and sees her come face to face with Hitler himself.

The cover for Kate Atkinson's Life After Life with a fox in the centre
Kate Atkinson's Life After Life follows the story of Ursula Todd.

At the heart of the series lies a list of important questions: what is it that Ursula so desperately needs to stay alive for? Can a perfect life ever be lived? And can she change the course of history – and in doing so, save the world from its seemingly inevitable destiny? 

Who stars in Life After Life?

As previously mentioned, Thomasin McKenzie, known for her role in Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, will be playing the role of Ursula. 

Fleabag’s Sian Clifford will also take on a starring role in the series, playing Sylvie, Ursula’s mother. Alongside her, James McArdle (Man In An Orange Shirt) will play Hugh, Ursula’s father.

Other members of the stellar line-up include Jessica Brown Findlay (Harlots, Brave New World) and Jessica Hynes (Years and Years).

BBC's Life After Life
Thomasin McKenzie plays Ursula in BBC's Life After Life.

They are joined by Patsy Ferran (Black Narcissus), Harry Michell (Yesterday), Laurie Kynaston (The Trouble With Maggie Cole), Joshua Hill (Small Axe) and Maria Laird (Derry Girls). 

Is there a trailer for Life After Life?

Yes! You can watch the romantic and ethereal trailer below:

When is Life After Life coming to the BBC?

Life After Life will air on BBC Two on Tuesday 19th April at 9pm. All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from then too.

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Images: BBC

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.