Monday, 27 July 2015

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Deeply moving and beautifully written, A God in Ruins is an insightful view of what war means and the moral dilemmas of who is right and wrong. Written as a companion novel to the highly successful Life after Life, A God in Ruins could easily be read as a stand alone novel; or indeed the two books read in any order. Just do read it – the writing is exquisite.

While in Life After Life Ursula Todd is reborn many times reliving the same events again and again, in A God in Ruins the author revisits the same events in Teddy Todd’s life from different perspectives.

Atkinson takes the reader forward and backward through Teddy’s life; from his comfortable upbringing, to marrying his childhood friend Nancy; from his war experiences as a World War 2 Halifax bomber pilot, to bringing up his troubled child Viola; through to losing his independence as an elderly man in care.

Teddy does not expect to survive the war due to the high death rate among crews, but seems to beat fate time and again. He finds life somewhat bewildering after the war and is not quite sure what to make of his wife, child and later grandchildren. Wry stoic humour is interspersed with a depth of character, theme and plot:

“An eye for an eye,” Mac said at the squadron reunion. (Until everyone was blind, Teddy wondered?)”.

While being completely absorbed in this novel, I wondered if any of Life after Life’s time bending trickery would be used in A God in Ruins. For a long time it seemed like there would not be; but without giving anything away, a clever and surprising twist awaits the patient reader.

Posted by Katrina H

Catalogue link: A God in Ruins

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