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A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
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A God in Ruins (2015)

by Kate Atkinson

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Enjoyable ... an intricate interweaving of past and present - Teddy's life (including his war experience) and that of his family. ( )
  EvaW | Mar 21, 2017 |
I loved Atkinson's previous book Life after Life and when I heard that this book continued the story I was very anxious to read it. My library book club decided to read it this year and although I am going to be away for the discussion I decided to read the book. It is different from Life after Life, perhaps more subtle about the impact people have on events and other people, but just as good.

Teddy Todd grew up in England between the wars. He was destined to follow in his father's footsteps and become involved in banking. However when WWII was declared he signed up for the RAF and took pilot training. His specialty was commanding a Halifax bomber as it deposited bombs over Europe. Most people in the bombing squadrons died; Atkinson says in the Afterword that "of aircrew flying at the beginning of the war, only 10 percent would see the end of it." Despite these overwhelming odds and Teddy's almost cavalier attitude to death he survived, married his childhood sweetheart, Nancy, and took up residence in Yorkshire. He had resolved that if he survived the war he would be nice and he was. He gloried in Nature and lived a simple life but, of course, he experienced heartache too. His daughter, Viola, rather spurned his ideals but his grandchildren, Sunny and Bertie, were shaped and protected by them. Teddy lived into his nineties before slipping away. Atkinson's description of his death is beautiful in a sad way. If Teddy had died during the war lives would have been different; certainly Viola, Sunny and Bertie would not exist. Atkinson explores this a bit right at the end and suddenly there is a whole other story. ( )
  gypsysmom | Feb 25, 2017 |
So here is my "non-review" review: I've thought about this for several days and I can't write one that does this book justice. Nor does any review or book blurb I've read. I can't say why I found this book so moving without spoilers. So I will just say that Kate Atkinson writes beautifully with fully-developed characters you come to know and love. There are some 'time slips' (but not the same as in Life After Life) but all have a purpose. An example: Teddy's grandchild asks about a stain on an old photograph and he replies that it's a tea stain. Only later when we go back in time to a memory of Teddy's are we told the real story - and it's a heartbreaking one.

Admittedly, there were times I felt the story got bogged down but all was redeemed. The bibleography is evidence of the extensive research the author brought to her book. This story affected me so profoundly that hours after turning the last page I couldn't get through dinner with my husband without crying. And even now, just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. Maybe that says a lot about me and the stage of life I find myself in, but any author who can evoke such emotion and compassion for her characters, as well as for an entire generation, deserves 5 stars from me. ( )
1 vote janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
We witness a man's life as he lives through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. I did not read this book fully or to the very end. ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
A God in Ruins is a companion book to Life After Life which was about Ursula Todd. This book is about Ursula's younger brother, Teddy, who was a fighter pilot during WWII. Atkinson shows what a nice and caring man Teddy was and I found myself caring about him throughout. He survives the war but didn't expect to live post-war. The book shows how war is a waste of life and how Teddy will be forever affected by it in the future. It is well-written and researched but I found it to be a rather complex story and not what I was expecting. I think I like Life After Life better as I found that book to be very unique. The twist at the end was a surprise and pretty clever. I look forward to reading more of Atkinson's books and I highly recommend this book to those who like books about WWII. ( )
  EadieB | Feb 1, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Kate Atkinson writes a brilliant follow-up to her brilliant novel, focusing on Teddy, the RAF pilot and brother of the previous book’s heroine....But if A God in Ruins suffers from a touch too much tidiness, if it overcalculates the glories of a sensitive “artistic soul,” those flaws pale next to Atkinson’s wit, humanity, and wisdom. In her afterword, she alludes to the “great conceit hidden at the heart of the book to do with fiction and the imagination, which is revealed only at the end.” It is a great conceit. But it’s also a testament to the novel’s craft and power that the conceit isn’t what you’ll remember when it’s over.
 
A God in Ruins doesn’t have a plot so much as a question, namely: How does such a lovely, perfect guy produce such a horrible, ungrateful daughter? Atkinson’s characteristic intelligence and wit are often on prominent display in the novel, yet it isn’t quite idiosyncratic enough to avoid the pitfalls of plotlessness. The chapters describing Teddy’s wartime exploits, in particular, feel over-long and over-detailed. One gets the sense that Atkinson has done a lot of painstaking research and doesn’t want to waste the fruits of her labour. ...Unlike Life After Life, which began flamboyantly and had a large cast of nuanced characters, this novel’s rewards come late in its pages. Until they do, we’re left in the company of two people who are ultimately rather dull: one because he’s “deplorably honest,” the other because she’s exasperatingly self-serving. Narrative psychology tells us there’s bound to be an explanation for this, and there is; the question is whether readers will have the patience to stick around and find out what it is.
 
But then you read a novel like Kate Atkinson’s “A God in Ruins,” a sprawling, unapologetically ambitious saga that tells the story of postwar Britain through the microcosm of a single family, and you remember what a big, old-school novel can do. Atkinson’s book covers almost a century, tracks four generations, and is almost inexhaustibly rich in scenes and characters and incidents. It deploys the whole realist bag of tricks, and none of it feels fake or embarrassing. In fact, it’s a masterly and frequently exhilarating performance by a novelist who seems utterly undaunted by the imposing challenges she’s set for herself....Taken together, “Life After Life” and “A God in Ruins” present the starkest possible contrast. In the first book, there’s youth and a multitude of possible futures. In the second, there’s only age and decay, and a single immutable past. This applies not only to the characters, but to England itself, which is portrayed over and over as a drab and diminished place. The culprit is obvious — it’s the war itself, “the great fall from grace.”
 
A God in Ruins is the story of Teddy’s war and its legacy, “a ‘companion’ piece rather than a sequel”, according to the author. At first glance it appears to be a more straightforward novel than Life After Life, though it shares the same composition, flitting back and forth in time so that a chapter from Teddy’s childhood in 1925 sits alongside a fragment of his grandchildren’s childhood in the 1980s, before jumping back to 1947, when Teddy and his wife Nancy, newly married, are trying to come to terms with the aftermath of the devastation: ...A God in Ruins, together with its predecessor, is Atkinson’s finest work, and confirmation that her genre-defying writing continues to surprise and dazzle.
 
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Epigraph
'A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be no longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.'

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
'The purpose of Art is to convey the truth of a thing, not to be the truth itself.'

Sylvie Beresford Todd
Dedication
For Reuben
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He walked as far as the hedge that signalled the end of the airfield.
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He had been reconciled to death during the war and then suddenly the war was over and there was a next day and a next day and a next day. Part of him never adjusted to having a future.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385671407, Hardcover)

The stunning companion to Kate Atkinson's #1 bestseller Life After Life, "one of the best novels I've read this century" (Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl).
     Kate Atkinson's dazzling Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances, following Ursula Todd as she lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. Her new novel tells the story of Ursula Todd's beloved younger brother Teddy--would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband, and father--as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is facing the difficulties of living in a future he never expected to have. The stunning companion to Life After Life, A God in Ruins explores the loss of innocence, the fraught transition from the war to peace time, and the pain of being misunderstood, especially as we age. Proving once again that Kate Atkinson is "one of the finest writers working today" (The Chicago Tribune), A God in Ruins is the triumphant return of a modern master.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:03 -0400)

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