Author: Kate Atkinson
Read: July, 2016
Genre: Historical – WW2, Fiction
WINNER OF THE 2015 COSTA NOVEL AWARD
A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.
This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction.Those who loved the bestselling Life After Life will recognise Teddy as Ursula Todd’s adored younger brother – but for those who have not read it, A God in Ruins stands fully on its own.
This book grew on me. I feel that it started out a little slow; the second section “Alouette” about Teddy’s childhood was rather meandering and uneventful, but still interesting and effective at establishing most of the main characters in Teddy’s life. After this section, the others were a lot more engaging and flitted between various points in Teddy’s long life – his experiences in WW2, the immediate aftermath, his married life, his daughter Viola growing up, his grandchildren, his old age. The scale of the novel’s story is quite impressive, and I admire how Atkinson has managed to distil an entire life into the pages of her book.
The omnipresent narrative took me a while to get used to – it’s weird reading about a child and being given information about his future daughter, but ultimately this style of weaving different threads of time together it what makes A God in Ruins so brilliant. It connects the dots between time period and generations of a family. It highlights the repercussions of history, most specifically the impact of WW2 on both the individual (Teddy) and wider society. It’s compassionate but honest in its depiction of its characters and their flaws, about life in general.
Overall, A God in Ruins struck me as being a book about consequences – of history, of our actions, of our emotions. It’s a beautiful book that had me shedding a few tears, especially in the scenes about (SPOILER! SPOILER!) Teddy’s wife, Nancy, dealing with her illness and the eventual end of her life.
Honestly, I recommend it for everyone.
“One’s own life seemed puny against the background of so much history.”
“Moments left, Teddy thought. A handful of heartbeats. That was what life was. A heartbeat followed by a heartbeat. A breath followed by a breath. One moment followed by another moment and then there was a last moment.”
Has any else read this book? Thoughts? I’d love to hear them!