One of the Best Books of 2015-- TIME , NPR, Washington Post , The Chicago Tribune , The Christian Science Monitor , The Seattle Times , The Kansas City Star , Kirkus , Bookpage , Hudson Booksellers, AARP
The stunning companion to Kate Atkinson's #1 bestseller Life After Life , "one of the best novels I've read this century" (Gillian Flynn).Read more...
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One of the Best Books of 2015--TIME, NPR, Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, The Seattle Times, The Kansas City Star, Kirkus, Bookpage, Hudson Booksellers, AARP
The stunning companion to Kate Atkinson's #1 bestseller Life After Life, "one of the best novels I've read this century" (Gillian Flynn).
"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. Part of him never adjusted to having a future."
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-09
- Reviewer: Staff
The life expectancy of RAF pilots in World War II was notoriously short, with fewer than half surviving the war. But Teddy Todd—the beloved younger brother of Ursula Todd, whose life in all its variations was the subject of Atkinson’s Life After Life—beats the odds. Inner peace means resuming a life he never expected to have in a now-diminished England. He has nightmares; a wife he loves, although not necessarily enough or in the right way; and, eventually, a daughter who blames him for her mother’s early death and never misses a chance to mention the blood on his hands. As much postwar story as war story, the book is also a depiction of the way past and present mix. Atkinson fans know that she can bend time to her will, and here she effortlessly shifts between Teddy’s flying days and his middle and old age, between his grandchildren and their awful mother, and back again. And, as in Life After Life, Atkinson isn’t just telling a story: she’s deconstructing, taking apart the notion of how we believe stories are told. Using narrative tricks that range from the subtlest sleight of hand to direct address, she makes us feel the power of storytelling not as an intellectual conceit, but as a punch in the gut. (May)
A brother's view
Teddy Todd, who first appeared in Kate Atkinson’s thrilling Life After Life (2013), served as a British pilot in World War II. As a young man in the throes of a brutal war, he “didn’t expect to see the alchemy of spring, to see the dull brown earth change to bright green and then pale gold.”
Teddy does survive the war, barely. In A God in Ruins, we follow the rest of his life as brother, husband, father and grandfather through the lovely, effortless story-telling of Atkinson (or, as I think of her whenever I glimpse one of her many near-perfect books on my shelves, She Who Can Do No Wrong).
Teddy wanders around Europe for a bit after the liberation, writing mediocre poetry at cafes on the Riviera. “If only he was an artist—paint seemed less demanding than words. He felt sure that Van Gogh’s sunflowers hadn’t given him as much trouble.”
A responsible British lad at heart, Teddy returns home to marry Nancy, literally the girl next door, and get a series of respectable if non-glamorous jobs. They have a volatile daughter, Viola, who lives with her boyfriend on a commune and gives Teddy and Nancy two grandchildren (their names, of course, are Sunny and Moon).
A God in Ruins is not so much a sequel as a companion to Life After Life, in which Teddy’s sister Ursula lives her life over and over. And Teddy’s story more than stands on its own. Atkinson effortlessly toggles to and from Teddy’s childhood, the war, and his daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives in a story so seamless that one barely notices skipping among decades.
And Teddy . . . it is hard to stop thinking about the steadfast yet slightly poetic Teddy. He apparently has that effect on women. When Viola unceremoniously moves him into a retirement home, the women flock to him: “Of course he was still pretty spry then, and competent, and the women belonged to a generation that could be impressed if a man simply knew how to flick a switch on a kettle. He set quite a few frail hearts a-flutter in Fanning Court.” He is a singular character in an extraordinary story.