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A God in Ruins (2015)

by Kate Atkinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Todd Family (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,4721404,611 (4.04)273
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 twentieth 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.… (more)
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» See also 273 mentions

English (138)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (140)
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
Very nearly perfect. Things slowed down a bit in the final third, but Atkinson brings it back around. Don't want to spoil anything, but it is the perfect companion to Life After Life, though not really the same sort of book. ( )
  jlabarge | Aug 18, 2021 |
Beautiful.
Brilliant. ( )
  wagnerkim | Jul 21, 2021 |
We only have one life to live. So why not, as Teddy the main character in the book thinks, "try and learn everyone's names. And be kind. Because why not?" This is described by the author in the Author's Note at the end as a companion piece to "Life After Life", not a sequel, and indeed it is clearly it's own book with it's own message. It is a sprawling novel in terms of characters and time, with chapters that range from 1925 to 2012. I was absolutely amazed at how Ms. Atkinson is able to move around seamlessly in a way that did not leave me either confused or frustrated. On the contrary it was thrilling and rewarding to read. Nothing that appears or happens is really a throwaway, it will show up again later, or earlier, and be of some importance. Often I would read a chapter, form a definitive opinion about a character, and then later read a chapter from that character's point of view that covered the exact same events and realize I was totally wrong. It is a good lesson for life, we often assign motive and intent to others when we really don't have all the facts. The characters are richly developed and almost too real, you end up being disappointed by the mistakes and wrong choices they make, much like we do with people in real life. But man does it feel real and vital while you are reading the book. I was able to read this in a very compressed time frame over a three day weekend and I think that really helped me to get into it and to get the flow of the book. As Ms. Atkinson correctly says in her Note, "Imagery for me is of paramount importance in a text, not complex imagery that jumps up and down and demand to have its hand shaken but a more subtle web that weaves its way throughout, often enigmatically, and knits everything together." That is exactly what happens. I remember when I started "Life After Life" I almost gave up 50 pages in because it was confusing me. I kept with it and wow am I glad I did. "A God In Ruins" is every bit as good. I feel enriched for having read it. ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
Don't let the larks and snowdrops fool you, this book is BRUTAL. I love Kate Atkinson, and you probably don't have to have read Life After Life before reading this, but why on earth haven't you read it?. Some of the characters feel like old friends. You end up feeling sympathy for characters you intensely dislike at first, and horrified by the actions others have to take. It's gorgeous and devastating. ( )
  flemertown | Jul 10, 2021 |
I'm going to be reading this and Life After Life again. ( )
  A2Seamster | Apr 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 138 (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.
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate Atkinsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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
First words
He walked as far as the hedge that signalled the end of the airfield.
Quotations
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.
Maurice was a Whitehall mandarin, a pillar of respectability ... Maurice would have been very annoyed to be considered junior enough to rubber-stamp anything. He signed. A fluid, careless signature from his silver Sheaffer.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 twentieth 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.

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