A God in Ruins

A God in Ruins

by Kate Atkinson

Overview: Kate Atkinson's dazzling Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances and the power of choices, following Ursula Todd as she lived through the turbulent events of the last century over and over again.

A GOD IN RUINS tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula's beloved younger brother Teddy--would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather-as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have.

An ingenious and moving exploration of one ordinary man's path through extraordinary times, A GOD IN RUINS proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.

Gail Reid (02/26/16): A God in Ruins is a terrific read on almost every front. The story of a British pilot Edward "Teddy" Todd in World War II and his life both before and after the war, the book has a compelling narrative filled with brilliant character development, insight, humor, joy and sadness. Shifting back and forth in time, the novel's central focal point is World War II and Teddy's wonderment at what life will be like in the "afterward" and his resolution to lead a good one, should he survive the war.

I would give this book a "6" except for the ending. But that's simply an emotional response on my part. Once I really understood Atkinson's message - and you will, too -- the conclusion is the right one for this literary tour de force.
Rating: *****

Arlene Almas (07/21/15): Faith, I really related to your review of this book - I was also very much emotionally involved with the characters and the story.

“A God in Ruins” is a spectacular novel by a brilliant writer, Kate Atkinson. I’ve read several books by her and enjoyed them all. This one focuses on England in the twentieth century, World War II in particular, with Edward Todd as its central character. Known as Teddy, he has a decent country childhood at Fox Corner, along with his sister Ursula. At Jackdaws, a home nearby, live the five Shawcross sisters, and the two families become very close. Atkinson gives us fully rounded characters for (almost) all the family members, from childhood through adulthood, and even old age, which helps in keeping track of everyone although the time frames keep changing. (As we’ve discussed in our Book Club, switching from one time period to another seems to be a common feature of modern novels.)

In my opinion, the heart of the story is Teddy’s experiences as a bomber pilot in World War II. The incredible descriptions of the complexities and horrors of flying nighttime bombing raids over German cities gives us amazing access to the thoughts and feelings of the crew members on the aircraft. A lot of it reminded me very much of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”; what goes on during these battles could easily drive anyone crazy!

Meanwhile, the family narratives are at times heartbreaking, funny, and always moving. Teddy marries Nancy, one of the Shawcross sisters, and we follow them to the next generation, a problematical daughter, and on to the next, her two children. There is plenty of time and space in this excellent novel for the full story to be told in Atkinson’s vivid writing. You will not soon forget Teddy.
Rating: *****

Faith Bowers (06/09/15): I really enjoyed Ms. Atkinson's latest novel. It is a companion novel to Life after Life which was a wonderful way to tell many stories. This book is about the life of Teddy who is the younger brother of Ursula (Life after Life). Teddy did 3 tours of bombing Germany during WWII. He resolved to live a more peaceful life if he made it back after the war.

Teddy's immediate family (his wife Nancy, his only daughter Viola and his grandchildren Bertie and Sunny) are attached like any family but are not close to each other. The grandchildren love that their grandfather looks after them. It cannot be said that the same of Viola --- with any of her relationships. What is not said is as important as what is said throughout the novel. Ms. Atkinson does a thorough job of emoting one family's response to the aftermath of WWII and the ensuing family changes through life and death. My emotional involvement though in the moment was very satisfying.
Rating: ****

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