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In Life After Life Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’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 will be to fa In Life After Life Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’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 will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.


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In Life After Life Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’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 will be to fa In Life After Life Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’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 will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

30 review for A God in Ruins

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    man, this book. chills, i tell you, everywhere chills. this is a companion book to Life After Life, and technically, it is "teddy's story." teddy, you will recall from life, is ursula's little brother. if you have not read Life After Life - what the crap is wrong with you?? go!! read!! meet us back here when you're done! i say "technically," because although teddy is definitely the center of this book, we are still treated to the stories and perspectives of some of our other friends from life, as man, this book. chills, i tell you, everywhere chills. this is a companion book to Life After Life, and technically, it is "teddy's story." teddy, you will recall from life, is ursula's little brother. if you have not read Life After Life - what the crap is wrong with you?? go!! read!! meet us back here when you're done! i say "technically," because although teddy is definitely the center of this book, we are still treated to the stories and perspectives of some of our other friends from life, as well as some new additions: sylvie, izzie, nancy, hugh, sunny, viola, bertie. and just a dash of ursula. who does not spend this book dying on every other page, lucky girl. the two things about life that resonated with me long after i closed the book had nothing to do with its structural playfulness, which seems to be "the thing" about the book that most people wanna talk about. and it should be talked about because it was risky and well-handled. but for me, that was more or less cosmetic. the things that shattered me were her writing about war and her glorification of english stoicism. and while this book doesn't have the same structure as life, it most definitely has these two focal points. and they are just as good here as they were in life. i'm not big into wartime narratives, but atkinson has a gift. she takes the english experience during world war two and just dissects the crap out of it. whether it be in long chapters about teddy's experiences as a fighter pilot (sometimes TOO long, which is my sole complaint about this book, but that complaint is tied to my own tastes which balked at the very detailed descriptions of planes which are no doubt fascinating to people with an interest in military history), or in smaller stories about the way the war changed people - their sexual permissiveness, social restructuring, and - my second ♥ - that stiff upper lip. if you're reading this review, you probably know me, and know my tastes. and a lot of what i enjoy, from steinbeck to hardy to grit lit are stories of endurance and adaptability in unforgiving circumstances. the triumph of the human spirit and man's struggle against forces of nature and hardship &yada. and this entire book is resting on the sturdy foundation of stoic forbearance. on doing what needs to be done. on making do and not making a fuss. a perfect example of this: It was when she had come down from the walls at Monkgate Bar and was waiting to cross the road at the traffic lights that a black curtain suddenly descended and covered her left eye…If she had gone completely blind she would have called for help, but the loss of only one eye didn't seem cause enough to involve complete strangers. i mean, COME ON! that is stellar. and also: … instead he had stayed and plodded on, because something told him that this was the life that had to be lived out…He preferred solitary pursuits, and being a member of a group seemed rather dutiful, but he could do dutiful and somebody had to or the world would fall apart. and the book is just FILLED with that, same as in life. and it is also filled with stories, stories, stories, each one a soulhurting gem. three words: do.mi.nic. i said that the book wasn't as structurally playful as life, but it does do a couple of things. we bounce around back and forth in time and voice: prewar, wartime, postwar, post-post war, with an overarching omniscient narrator casually inserting facts and fates that will happen in the future, which may or may not be fleshed out in later chapters. details will occur, and then recur in a different context, with different import. we will revisit meaningful objects through the eyes of several characters, who may not know what they are looking at. oh, and there's this one other thing. about which you will hear nothing from me. except that it's more reader-jarring than anything that happens in life. don't read too many reviews of this book. i have been careful, but others may not be. go in cold and prepare to be blown away again by this woman's phenomenal storytelling abilities and her ability to write characters for whom you will care very deeply. and fear for, because we are at war, and you can be killed while sunbathing on a roof. please, more, ms. atkinson!! jimmy!! izzie! maurice!! anyone! .......................................................................................................... this is only a four-star from me because it is not quite as good as Life After Life, which is like saying camembert is not quite as good as brie. it's practically a meaningless distinction, as i would eat either of those anytime, anywhere. for all intents and purposes, this is a five-star book. come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    “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 wake from dreams.“ – Ralph Waldo Emerson – Nature Thus opens Kate Atkinson’s companion work to her much acclaimed Life After Life. While the earlier work focused on The Blitz, Germany’s prolonged bombing of London and other English cities during World War II, this one looks at the Allied bombing campaign against Germany, first against strategic resources and later targeting c “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 wake from dreams.“ – Ralph Waldo Emerson – Nature Thus opens Kate Atkinson’s companion work to her much acclaimed Life After Life. While the earlier work focused on The Blitz, Germany’s prolonged bombing of London and other English cities during World War II, this one looks at the Allied bombing campaign against Germany, first against strategic resources and later targeting civilians. As the Todd family was employed as our eyes on the earlier stages of the war, so, again, it is the Todds through whose eyes we experience war and its effects, just not the same Todds. Ursula, the star of Life After Life, is a bit player here. The focus this time is Ursula’s beloved younger brother Ted. Not merely the good-hearted, kind-natured boy of the prior book, Ted is all grown up and a pilot, flying many bombing missions over the continent. Life After Life was an adventure of imagining alternate possible outcomes from specific acts and trying each of them out, playing the same hand different ways. There is no fantasy element in this book, or at least not nearly to the same degree. But that does not mean that Atkinson has settled into a sequential narrative form. There are very non-sequential stops up and down the 20th century and even into the 21st. From 1925 when Teddy is still a kid, enduring the third degree from his writer aunt, to 1944 when he takes off on his last mission. From the immediate post war era to 1993 when he is packed off to a senior residence. From his early married life in 1951 to events in 2012. The Halifax - from the Daily Mail And, as with Life After Life, Atkinson offers us multiple viewpoints. While we primarily see events through Ted, we also see the world from the perspective of his daughter and grandchildren, from his aunt Izzie. Mysteries in one view are sometimes clarified in another. The time tracks, heard together, make a symphony. This event, in this time, impacts that result in another, which generates a further outcome in a third. Solo instruments joined to make a glorious sound. It is not just the military struggle, and its collateral affect that Atkinson examines. She has a keen eye for change. The sexual revolution in permissiveness and acceptance that accompanies war, the development of sylvan fields into cookie cutter housing tracts, the counter-culture, or at least one manifestation of it, holding up images of diverse eras side by side. Avian imagery permeates. The most poignant, for me, is when young Ted rues the loss to generations to come from his aunt having consumed a single skylark, a potent symbol for the lives extinguished in war, the lost possibilities, reminding us of Spring and Fall by GM Hopkins. It wasn’t just the one lark that had been silenced by Izzie…It was the generations of birds that would have come after it and now would never be born. All those beautiful songs that would never be sung. Later in life he learned the word ‘exponential’, and later still the word ‘fractal’, but for now it was a flock that grew larger and larger as it disappeared into a future that would never be. A budgy with a clipped wing stands in for one character’s feeling of imprisonment. There are plenty of ups and downs to accompany the feathered ones. As Ted is a pilot, he heads up into the air and down again as many times. At a Beethoven concert the elevation brought on by pure beauty is palpable. Kate Atkinson - from the Telegraph Another element that carries through is a consideration of nature, and our connection to it. Ted personifies this impulse, sensitive to beauty in the natural world since childhood. He writes a nature column for a local newspaper as an adult. Through his sad eyes we see the loss of much that was precious through the development of the post war era, and rue, with him the decline in appreciation. Ted, in his nature column, bemoans the near extinction of the water vole. Atkinson says, in the author’s note that follows the text of the novel in the copy I read, that she is writing about the Fall of Man from Grace. There are, throughout the novel, as she notes, a lot of references to Utopia, Eden, to an Arcadian past, to Paradise Lost and Pilgrim’s Progress. Ted’s daughter lives with her kids and their father for a time, for example, at a commune called Adam’s Acre. He felt relief when the overcrowded train finally pulled slowly away from the platform, glad to be leaving the dirty wreckage of London. There was a war on. After all and he was supposed to be fighting it. He discovered the little wrinkled apple [From Fox Corner] in his pocket and ate it in two bites. It tasted sour when he had expected it to be sweet. He returns to Fox Corner for a visit late in life, but it is now closed to him. A lot of attention is paid to marriage and relationships, particularly to coping when the match looks perfect on the surface, pre-ordained even, but lacks the passion of great love. Wedlock that seems, whether in its inception or subsequent practice, more lock than wed. And alongside that is a look at parenting. Many of the parental sorts here are no better to their progeny than the powers that be were to their young soldiers. Parents do not come off all that well overall, as was the case in Life After Life. Ted’s daughter Viola is an extremely poor excuse for a parent, selfish from birth and traumatized by a loss in her youth, she offers Ted none of the parental rewards his years of sacrifice should have earned him. Why did you have children? Bertie asked, later in their lives. ‘Was it just the biological imperative to breed?’ ‘That’s why everyone has children,’ Viola said, ‘they just dress it up as something more sentimental.’ Atkinson dips into poetry more than a few times, sprinkling her attention around. GM Hopkins of course, with his vision of the eternal in the natural, is an obvious choice for relating to Ted’s appreciation for and wonder at the beauty of nature. Keats, Blake, Wordsworth, Shakespeare and more. There is even a passage late in the book that joins lines from seven poems from six poets. Have your search engines warmed and ready. I think that all novels are not only fiction but they are about fiction too…Every time a writer throws themselves at the first line of a novel they are embarking on an experiment. An adventure. Atkinson, having set aside the fun What if of Life After Life, contains herself until the end when she offers commentary on authorial prerogatives, imagining different outcomes for her characters, imagining lives that might have been, the god of her created domain. So, a lot on the mechanisms, but is A God in Ruins worth reading? Absolutely. Ted is a very engaging character and, even though his stiff upper lip may get in the way from time to time, he is a decent sort, a good man, easy to care about. Atkinson lets us peek past some of the outer armor on some of the less appealing characters to see what made them the way they are, and leaves you thinking that if you had known that information earlier you might have been more sympathetic to this one or that. And offers a chance to consider how you might have acted faced with those circumstances. There is one particularly large reveal near the end that explains a lot about one character in particular. Yes, engaging, moving. You will learn a bit about the massive bombing of Germany that was going on during the war, and a bit about how the war affected life on the homefront. Atkinson shows us changes in English life from the war to now, changes in her people, and over the course of her narrative she changes how we see them. A God in Ruins could easily be seen as An Author in Triumph. Most writers would be happy to have written one masterpiece. With A God in Ruins Kate Atkinson has written a second. If you don’t read this book you may not be cast out of Eden, but you probably should be. Posted 1/8/16 Published date - 5/5/2015 (hc) – 1/12/16 (TP) =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal and FB pages Video of a Halifax bomber – ignition and liftoff Kate Atkinson Tells Book Club How She Crafts Characters At All Life Stages-from NPR Readers’ group guide A wiki on Kibbo Kift, a scouting alternative group noted in the book My review of Todd Family #1, Life After Life

  3. 5 out of 5

    Violet wells

    The second novel about a Bomber Command pilot I’ve read in the space of as many months and both A God in Ruins and The Way Back to Florence have turned out to be fabulous enthralling if very different novels. The pilot is in this novel is Teddy, brother of Ursula in Life After Life. The novel spans his long life and offsets and hones it with the lives of his daughter and his two grandchildren. As ever with Atkinson there are layers of artifice in this novel – on one level, her novels are general The second novel about a Bomber Command pilot I’ve read in the space of as many months and both A God in Ruins and The Way Back to Florence have turned out to be fabulous enthralling if very different novels. The pilot is in this novel is Teddy, brother of Ursula in Life After Life. The novel spans his long life and offsets and hones it with the lives of his daughter and his two grandchildren. As ever with Atkinson there are layers of artifice in this novel – on one level, her novels are generally about fiction itself - but unlike Life after Life whose tricks I found gimmicky the artifice here is subtle and as such has greater artistry. Once again we have a family saga spanning four generations with a central figurehead acting as a kind of cypher through which the history is decrypted. And once again Atkinson’s brilliant command of structure is in evidence. She deftly shifts the narrative from one decade to another and back again without sacrificing the dramatic tension. A God in Ruins exudes a similar nostalgia for the pre-war past as Brideshead Revisited. Atkinson clearly feels a great deal of affection for the old world modesty and self-effacement of Teddy – brilliantly offset by the bullying egotism and blinkered narcissism of his gloriously obnoxious daughter Viola (one of the best literary villains of past few years!). The war is depicted as a time of simple and stolen pleasures, of camaraderie and even excitement (Atkinson gives her characters very glamorous wartime occupations: Teddy’s wife Nancy is a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, a sister is an ATA pilot and a friend a female SOE agent); post-war, all the way to today, is depicted as a muddle of self-indulgence and misguided pursuits of utopia. Fox’s Wood, Teddy’s childhood home, is the utopia of the novel – everything eventually seems to lead back there as if all that followed, most obviously the war, was a fatal cosmic error in navigation. “The war had been a great chasm and there could be no going back to the other side, to the people they were before.” Atkinson has a habit of being very hard on her female characters, especially on her mothers. Rarely do they like their children, let alone love them. Viola is her most monstrous mother to date. And as such provides most of the book’s best humour. At times we’re left asking ourselves if the sacrifice of all those young men was worth it if it spawned monsters like Viola. She also pokes fun at many contemporary pursuits (care homes, marketing jargon, courses in self-discovery, dietary fads) and includes some self-satire when Viola becomes a successful novelist. Right, I’m on the Eurostar to Paris and we’re about to enter the tunnel so I’ve leave it at that…

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    In Kate Atkinson’s time-bending novel, Life After Life, the author toyed with time and created several different timelines and narratives for her main character, Ursula Todd. Now, in this companion piece, the focus is on Teddy, Ursula’s brother, and his life as an RAF Halifax pilot and under-the-radar hero. Atkinson holds the magical power to shape time to fit her story and this one moves seamlessly from Teddy’s last treacherous flights (fewer than half of RAF pilots actually survived World War I In Kate Atkinson’s time-bending novel, Life After Life, the author toyed with time and created several different timelines and narratives for her main character, Ursula Todd. Now, in this companion piece, the focus is on Teddy, Ursula’s brother, and his life as an RAF Halifax pilot and under-the-radar hero. Atkinson holds the magical power to shape time to fit her story and this one moves seamlessly from Teddy’s last treacherous flights (fewer than half of RAF pilots actually survived World War II) to the 20th and 21st century, where Teddy is a husband, father, and grandfather. We get to meet his daughter Viola, who blames him for her mother’s premature departure and makes a mess out of her own life…and subsequently, the lives of her two children. But the key to this story lies in his title, which comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “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.” Wartime is, the author argues, man’s greatest fall from grace and so she walks a fine tightrope: revealing the amazing heroism and self-sacrifice of the men such as Teddy and his crew yet showcasing how (in her own words) “whether our war on savagery did not, in the end, become itself savage as we attacked the very people – the old, the young, women – that civilization is supposed to defend.” When Ursula asks Teddy, “and how do you define ‘innocence” anyway?”, attention must be paid. The postwar scenario occupies every bit as large a part as the war narrative; Viola never does understand the forces that shaped her father or the fabric of the man he became. As a result, she cannot be called innocent and her own life is often in self-defined ruins. Anyone who suspects that this book is less – well, inventive – than its predecessor will be suitably satisfied with Kate Atkinson’s sleight of hand. A God In Ruins is also the philosophical sibling of the earlier book; everything in life can change quickly – in a heartbeat – and life is little more than a single breath. That breath is particularly precarious during wartime (“All the birds who were never born, all the songs that were never sung and so can only exist in imagination.”) The bottom line (again in the author’s words) is that “War is savage. For everyone. Innocent or guilty.” It dehumanizes us and in too many cases, it takes away our story. And THAT Is the brilliance that lies behind this work.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I guess I just loved everything about this book except the cover but I won't knock any stars off for that. Kate Atkinson writes like a dream. The early parts of this book are slow but the prose is so good the slowness does not matter. And it needs to be read carefully anyway because at times the story flits backwards and forwards and the reader needs to be alert in order to keep track. I enjoyed the fact that the book is set in the same world as Life After Life but focuses on Teddy instead of Ur I guess I just loved everything about this book except the cover but I won't knock any stars off for that. Kate Atkinson writes like a dream. The early parts of this book are slow but the prose is so good the slowness does not matter. And it needs to be read carefully anyway because at times the story flits backwards and forwards and the reader needs to be alert in order to keep track. I enjoyed the fact that the book is set in the same world as Life After Life but focuses on Teddy instead of Ursula. She pops in and out but this is Teddy's story and Teddy's life. There is a wealth of historical detail about World War 2 and the part played by fighter pilots which would not usually be my cup of tea. However the author tells it so well and brings it all to life in such a way that you can imagine being up there in that tiny plane or worse, crash landing in the North Sea. Teddy is a wonderful character who grows from boyhood to old man during the story and becomes someone you really care for. And then the ending absolutely stunned me. I did not see that coming and I will be thinking about it and replaying it for days. Thank you very much Kate Atkinson and what on earth are you going to write next?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I hope this doesn’t sound conceited, but you might crow, too, if you had just written one BILLION reviews. I have the magic of combinatorics to thank. There are nine different fill-in-the-blank sections in this review that allow ten separate candidates each which in the end will embody the text. That makes 10 to the 9th power (1,000,000,000) possible outcomes. If you want your own individualized version, take the digits of your Social Security Number or any other 9-digit sequence of your choosin I hope this doesn’t sound conceited, but you might crow, too, if you had just written one BILLION reviews. I have the magic of combinatorics to thank. There are nine different fill-in-the-blank sections in this review that allow ten separate candidates each which in the end will embody the text. That makes 10 to the 9th power (1,000,000,000) possible outcomes. If you want your own individualized version, take the digits of your Social Security Number or any other 9-digit sequence of your choosing, and reveal the corresponding numerical choice under the spoiler tag at each juncture. First of all, let me apologize to my friends here who may have thought I was 0 (view spoiler)[dead (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[in a coma (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[genuinely gone from Goodreads (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[taking a principled stand (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[stuck in my own April Fool’s Day prank (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[tapped out entirely (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[finally mature enough to stop writing gimmicky reviews (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[calling even more attention to myself with a joke on my own joke about leaving (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[so full of myself thinking that anyone would care (hide spoiler)] . My inactivity was due instead to 0 (view spoiler)[laziness (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[a scarcity of free time (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[adjusting to a new schedule after a suburb-to-city move (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[big city distractions (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[my nonstop telepathic efforts to help the Cubs (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[too much TV (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[creative juices fermenting caustically (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[an easily reinforced habit of sitting idle, not reviewing (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[a disconcerting spell of illiteracy (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[the thought after a while that a long absence can be justified only by a whiz-bang review, delaying my return even more as none came (hide spoiler)] . This book is a companion to Atkinson’s celebrated Life After Life, one I liked a lot for the 0 (view spoiler)[do-overs in the main character’s life that allow us to play “what if” (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[beautiful, yet unobtrusive writing (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[nonlinearity of the narrative (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[history lessons, both cultural and Krieg-related (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[density of the plot (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[collective stiffness of upper lips (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[the main character, Ursula -- insightful, empathetic, philosophical and poetic (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[clichéd, but interesting chance in one of the do-overs to undo Hitler (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[ability to defy quantum physics even at its weirdest and still make it work (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[template of repeated trials over similar circumstances leading to better decisions and an older soul (hide spoiler)] . Ursula, the often recreated character in Life After Life had a younger brother, Teddy, who was the focus here. Teddy was an RAF pilot who was also defined by his 0 (view spoiler)[leadership as an officer (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[well-deserved respect, granted by his crew (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[love of the outdoors (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[quiet life after the war (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[vow to be kind above all else (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[affection for his family (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[happiness to help raise his grandchildren (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[sense of duty (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[golden boy status, but with just enough tarnish to make him real (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[dignity as he aged (hide spoiler)] . Unlike Life After Life, Ursula and her many iterations were not a big part of this story. The lens this time focuses squarely on Teddy and those closest to him, extending from boyhood to the “Care” Home, with temporal zigzags throughout. Among the other P.O.V. characters, several were fleshed out quite fully. For instance, we saw with Teddy’s 0 (view spoiler)[daughter Viola, someone drawn as a near-caricature of bad behavior (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[daughter Viola, an unattractive degree of self-interest and entitlement (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[daughter Viola, someone endowed with so little empathy they should have taken her kids from her (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[daughter Viola, a counter-cultural warrior, more to cause arguments than to celebrate any free-loving hippie ethos (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[daughter Viola, one who became a successful writer, giving Atkinson a chance to goof on her own profession, and show that even a train-wreck of a human being can do it (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[brilliant wife Nancy, a code-breaker at Bletchley Park as Teddy was flying planes over Germany (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[stoic wife Nancy who showed outward responses to a grave illness very much at odds with her inner ones (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[grandson Sunny, whose boyish high energy was not tolerated, much less encouraged, by anyone other than Grandpa Ted (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[granddaughter Bertie, living proof that laudable traits can skip a generation (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[Halifax bomber crew, a motley assemblage that seemed all the more real for its kaleidoscopic breakdowns by home, history and temperament (hide spoiler)] . Beyond the exceptional character development, I really liked 0 (view spoiler)[the sly humor, somewhat resigned, but spot on observations about our institutions and ways (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[the detail in describing the bombing missions (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[the Todd family refrain – “needs must” – uttered whenever an unpleasant task falls upon one of them to perform responsibly (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[a few throat-tightening scenes where valiant behavior or a particular kindness in the face of dire circumstances may play out (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[the way moral questions were framed, particularly the doubts raised by bombing campaigns that went from strategic targets to wider swaths of the population (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[the flight imagery – the rising, the falling, the ties with the human spirit, and the bird-like mix of freedom and fragility (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[the often deep, often short-term nature of war-time connections (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[the backwards, forwards structuring that kept the pace lively (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[the kind of ending that packs a real punch (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[the chance to say, “Whoa – I did not see that coming” (hide spoiler)] . I’ve now read enough Kate Atkinson to know she’s 0 (view spoiler)[the bomb. Oh wait, that’s not such a good word in this case (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[a real writer (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[quite a good researcher. Her accounts of the bombing runs had historical precedence in every case (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[a wonderful story-teller – taut and creative (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[not to be disparaged as a mere genre writer (said with an air of haughty disdain) despite the popularity of her Jackson Brodie books (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[a bit of a post-modernist. She said in her Author’s Note, “I think that all novels are not only fiction but they are about fiction too” (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[clever in a meta-fictive way, as this quote from the book may suggest: “The purpose of Art,” his mother, Sylvie, said—instructed even—“is to convey the truth of a thing, not to be the truth itself” (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[good with metaphors and foreshadowing. When, as a boy, Aunt Izzie was eating a skylark, Teddy thought of the generations that might have followed that now will not. “All the birds who were never born, all the songs that were never sung and so can only exist in imagination” (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[always shown on the back cover wearing a scarf as every woman from Scotland should (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[exactly what the cover blurb says: a writer at the height of her powers (hide spoiler)] . I’m rating this somewhere in the vicinity of 0 (view spoiler)[4.40 (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[4.41 (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[4.42 (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[4.43 (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[4.44 (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[4.45 (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[4.46 (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[4.47 (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[4.48 (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[4.49 (hide spoiler)] stars. The only thing I’m counting off for is that it occasionally felt just a bit long. If I’m honest, though, that may reflect more on me than the book. With my old commute I’d get hour-long chunks of reading time. Until I tweak my routine to find those chunks again, my status as a Goodreader will be threatened. Despite my delay in finishing, the book truly was a pleasure. Atkinson proved her ascendance again. Let’s see if I know what you’re thinking after a sample of one billion reviews. 0 (view spoiler)[Dude, your math is less magical than you think. (hide spoiler)] 1 (view spoiler)[Uh, this is Goodreads, not Goodrandomshit. (hide spoiler)] 2 (view spoiler)[Did you choose this format because it’s easier not to edit and hone like you would with a proper review? (hide spoiler)] 3 (view spoiler)[I suppose Atkinson herself might appreciate the random paths and the multiplicity of possible outcomes. (hide spoiler)] 4 (view spoiler)[Much as you might like, this doesn’t make you a unicorn. (hide spoiler)] 5 (view spoiler)[People like me and Carl Sagan are impressed at nothing less than a trillion. (hide spoiler)] 6 (view spoiler)[Might I suggest a much longer break from this site next time. (hide spoiler)] 7 (view spoiler)[Steve, for a taste of your own medicine, I’ve come up with combinations of seven-letter strings for you to consider (26 to the 7th power being over 8 billion possibilities). The one in particular to focus on is TWADDLE. (hide spoiler)] 8 (view spoiler)[I wouldn’t start thinking you’ll get a “like” for every combination. (hide spoiler)] 9 (view spoiler)[Is this gimmickry meant to mask the fact that you’re a reviewer at the depth of your powers? (hide spoiler)]

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This is another case where I took a chance to read an author's book having not been a fan of a previous book. If you read my review of "Life After Life", you'll see, I wasn't 'ga-ga' over that book!!! I didn't 'jump' for joy when this first book came out either. PASS were my first thoughts! Overtime ... I heard and read a few things about this 'companion' novel to have me re-consider ...( enough to enter a Goodreads give-a-way). No, I didn't win... but my local thrift box had a 'like new' copy for This is another case where I took a chance to read an author's book having not been a fan of a previous book. If you read my review of "Life After Life", you'll see, I wasn't 'ga-ga' over that book!!! I didn't 'jump' for joy when this first book came out either. PASS were my first thoughts! Overtime ... I heard and read a few things about this 'companion' novel to have me re-consider ...( enough to enter a Goodreads give-a-way). No, I didn't win... but my local thrift box had a 'like new' copy for a dollar. ( the universe was speaking). Plus...I had remembered months before, Goodreads member, Violet Wells, said a couple of things in her review that had me up to 'seriously considering' giving Kate Atkinson another try. I never said Atkinson wasn't a good writer...it was just that the story in "Life After Life" drove me bananas. Nails-on-a-chalkboard experience... ( with me still stuck with the scene about Ursula -sex- the doctors office and not knowing where babies come from) ... I never recovered from that situation! Moving into "A God in Ruins"..... WOW...... *awesome* reading surprise!!! I'm sincerely surprised by how fantastic this was. Heartbreaking...real.. ( so much to talk about).... Emotions FELT!!! For me...it's all about TEDDY....( the cycle of a life)! Teddy as a child Teddy during the war Teddy after the war. Teddy is doing the storytelling. The best kind too. An adult man...telling us his life story. I fell in love with him as a child. Funny dialogue conversations in the beginning with he and his aunt Izzy. ( I was laughing out loud)... but soon things shifted and I felt sad for this growing young boy. Even before he was a full teen, it was easy to see this boy's integrity - his sense of purpose in life. His dreams were not just for his own adult life ...but his desires for 'his' children ...( he was only 11 years old). That feeling never left me, ( his young self), as we see him as a young man who is passionate for flying bombers. WE GET IT!!! Even if you don't like the nitty-gritty details of 'war'...there was something very moving about how war was described through Teddy. Teddy is an enduring character. At the beginning he seems a little aloof...with a dry even key personality. I soon realized while he did not express exuberant emotion, I was feeling tons 'for' him. The YING & the YANG... It was a pretty ugly relationship between Teddy and his daughter Viola. As a parent ..there are so many ways to look at this tragedy.. Does it help to be angry at Viola for being a such a selfish self- centered creature? Her children are beautiful... But unfortunately and fortunately...we see them through the eyes of Teddy (Viola wasn't dishing out an ounce of touchy-feely love energy). In the end... "A God in Ruins" can make you want to crawl back into bed for a day and pull the covers over you. I ached! The depth and richness from the storytelling has added new breath to mine. I could cry just thinking of this story! WONDERFUL!!!!! p.s. This makes 3 books in a row where they each Have been ****phenomenal**** Bases are loaded!!!! ". ( hope I can keep this train running) ....The Yoga of Max's Discontent, by Karan Bajan ....The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert ... A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Perhaps the element of this novel that most moved me was the arrogant dismissive way the young often view older generations, especially children with regards to their parents. This is highlighted in the relationship between the obnoxiously brilliant Viola and her father Teddy. Teddy is/was a Bomber Command pilot during WW2. Almost nightly he goes through the harrowing experience of flying over Nazi Germany; the repressed guilt of dropping bombs on “innocent” civilians; the awareness that his dea Perhaps the element of this novel that most moved me was the arrogant dismissive way the young often view older generations, especially children with regards to their parents. This is highlighted in the relationship between the obnoxiously brilliant Viola and her father Teddy. Teddy is/was a Bomber Command pilot during WW2. Almost nightly he goes through the harrowing experience of flying over Nazi Germany; the repressed guilt of dropping bombs on “innocent” civilians; the awareness that his death is always a whisker away and that an entire city below is willing it; his friends are killed on a monthly basis. Yet the superbly self-centred Viola, on a constant self-sequestering quest to find a kind of hippy utopia, has no interest in her father’s history, his inner life. She looks down on him as someone less enlightened, less intimate with the important goals of experience. Late in the novel, when Viola has become a writer and her father is suffering from dementia she regrets not asking him about his wartime experiences, not because she’s interested, but because she realises it would be good material for a book. Her cynical self-interest knows no bounds.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    Shortly before I finished this book last night, I read of the death of Nicholas Winton, aka Britain's Schindler, at the age of 106. He lived through the same time period, with a few years' difference on either side, as Atkinson's fictional Teddy, the favorite sibling of Ursula from Life After Life. While I was immediately captured by the latter book, this companion novel took a while for me to get into as I wondered where it was going. The ultimate destination is a spoiler and I'll address my is Shortly before I finished this book last night, I read of the death of Nicholas Winton, aka Britain's Schindler, at the age of 106. He lived through the same time period, with a few years' difference on either side, as Atkinson's fictional Teddy, the favorite sibling of Ursula from Life After Life. While I was immediately captured by the latter book, this companion novel took a while for me to get into as I wondered where it was going. The ultimate destination is a spoiler and I'll address my issue with that in a spoiler comment below for anyone who's curious. Atkinson's prose style is as engaging as ever (though she must hate semicolons: see my review of One Good Turn); she's a great storyteller; and she clearly loves her characters, even the most unlovable one. The characters come by their personalities honestly as their backgrounds reveal, something that's not done slowly. Once Atkinson has you wondering about something, it's explained rather quickly, through a different time period and a different point of view. I would've liked the book to have ended ten pages sooner. As I read the last sentence of "my" ending, my mind immediately went to the ending of D.M. Thomas's The White Hotel -- same theme but Thomas' rendering had much more of an impact on me. Following Atkinson's ending (and I understand why she chose it) is an "Author's Note." I don't usually mind these notes, but this detailed one both explained too much and seemed superfluous. I wonder if criticism to Life After Life prompted it. I am of two minds about this book and not sure how to rate it. I enjoyed it for the most part and I agree with the theme, but the ending was deflating.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenne

    I just cannot deal with Viola. Just no.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Bolton

    “Despite the owl, which continued to hoot its unholy lullaby, he fell almost immediately into the deep and innocent sleep of the hopeful.” First the confession. I didn’t really like Life After Life. Oh, I admit, it was a very clever idea, beautifully written, but for me, something was missing. It was all a bit random and, at times, (I may as well be honest) a wee bit annoying. Something of a mixed blessing, then, to be sent an ARC of the “companion piece”, A God In Ruins. It’s a beautiful, limit “Despite the owl, which continued to hoot its unholy lullaby, he fell almost immediately into the deep and innocent sleep of the hopeful.” First the confession. I didn’t really like Life After Life. Oh, I admit, it was a very clever idea, beautifully written, but for me, something was missing. It was all a bit random and, at times, (I may as well be honest) a wee bit annoying. Something of a mixed blessing, then, to be sent an ARC of the “companion piece”, A God In Ruins. It’s a beautiful, limited-edition proof that will look great on the shelf, but did I really want to put myself through more of the same? Well, I did, thank goodness, because A God In Ruins is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve ever read. It is the story of Ursula Todd’s younger brother, Teddy, who becomes a fighter pilot in World War 2, is one of the relative few to survive and who goes on to marry, have a daughter and a couple of grandchildren, and live to a ripe old age. So what? Yes, I know, I’d be tempted to say the same if the book was ‘sold’ to me in that way. It’s difficult to explain quite why this is such an exquisite read, because there’s precious little in the way of plot, but it is testament to the sheer brilliance of Atkinson’s writing, that she can keep her reader so engaged without too much happening. Every incident, every character, is drawn with exquisite, sparkling colour, not a single detail seems superfluous and her dark, bitchy sense of humour weaves through the narrative like a glossy black ribbon. The timeline jumps about a bit. The story is written from multiple points of view that occasionally leap up and take the reader by surprise, but otherwise I couldn’t fault this book. Well, maybe I could, just a tiny bit, because as I neared the end, I found myself thinking: ‘It’s a lovely book, but I’m not sure what the point of it is, other than the interest to be found even in very ordinary, common-place lives.’ In fairness, I’d have been happy to leave it at that, I was enjoying the read so much. And then, oh my lord, the point! The point of the book hit me like a blow from a sledgehammer. It made me cry. It made me feel like a complete fool. It left me in awe of Atkinson’s brilliance. It made me want to read Life After Life again. I cannot say more, just by mentioning that there is ‘something to come’ I may have already spoiled the surprise to some extent, and for that I apologise, but without referring to ‘the point’ it would be almost impossible to explain why I think this great, glorious heartbreak of a book will come to be considered one of the defining novels of our time. PS: I did re-read Life After Life. I get it now. The rest of the world was right and I was wrong.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    This has been described as a sequel to Life After Life, but as Kate Atkinson says in her Author's Note at the end, "I like to think of it as a 'companion piece' rather than a sequel". It is similarly audacious and if anything even more moving, and I devoured it in three days. This time centre stage is taken by Teddy Todd, the younger brother of Ursula, the heroine of Life After Life. The core story tells of his life as a bomber pilot in the Second World War, which is vividly described and emotion This has been described as a sequel to Life After Life, but as Kate Atkinson says in her Author's Note at the end, "I like to think of it as a 'companion piece' rather than a sequel". It is similarly audacious and if anything even more moving, and I devoured it in three days. This time centre stage is taken by Teddy Todd, the younger brother of Ursula, the heroine of Life After Life. The core story tells of his life as a bomber pilot in the Second World War, which is vividly described and emotionally powerful. This only accounts for about a third of the book, as Teddy's struggles with civilian life before and after the war are also described in detail, and the chapters are chronologically scattered. Even within chapters and sentences Atkinson often can't resist throwing in asides about how the perceptions and expectations of her characters are confounded, with allusions to events several decades later. This is a bit like listening to an aged relative - descriptions of the distant past interspersed with comments about more recent events. Some events are described several times in different levels of detail. Some chapters tell the story of Teddy's daughter Viola, who is a self-centred child of the sixties who becomes a writer of popular fiction, and her relationship with her children Sunny (a boy) and Bertie (a girl). Viola is a comic caricature, and provides much of the light relief which leavens the more serious material. Viola's character is partly shaped by the early death of Ted's wife Nancy from brain cancer, and her role in the story demonstrates how quickly history is forgotten by younger generations. It is difficult to describe the ending without resorting to spoilers, and although this is a book which would reward re-reading I won't say too much here, except that although I felt it was cleverly handled it might have been even better to end with the devastating penultimate chapter. This is a minor quibble, and overall I was greatly impressed by the range of ideas, the variety of narrative styles and the way the whole thing coalesces. A fine book, and possibly even better than Life After Life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    EXCERPT: What had gone into the making of Teddy? Not slugs and snails, it was true, but generation upon generation of Beresfords and Todds, all coming to one singular point in a cold bed in the chill of an autumn night when his father had caught hold of the golden rope of his mother's hair and hadn't let go until he had hauled them both to the far shore (they had many euphemisms for the act). As they lay amongst the shipwreck of the marital bed they each felt slightly befuddled by the unexpecte EXCERPT: What had gone into the making of Teddy? Not slugs and snails, it was true, but generation upon generation of Beresfords and Todds, all coming to one singular point in a cold bed in the chill of an autumn night when his father had caught hold of the golden rope of his mother's hair and hadn't let go until he had hauled them both to the far shore (they had many euphemisms for the act). As they lay amongst the shipwreck of the marital bed they each felt slightly befuddled by the unexpected ardor of the other. Hugh cleared his throat and murmured, 'A voyage into the deep, eh?' Sylvie said nothing as she felt the seafaring metaphor had been stretched far enough. But the grain had entered the shell (Sylvie's own metaphoric stance) and the pearl that would be Edward Beresford Todd began to grow until he was revealed into the sunshine that came before the Great War and lay happily for hours on end in his pram with nothing but a silver hare dangling from the pram hood for company. THE BLURB: In Life After Life Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’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 will be to face living in a future he never expected to have. MY THOUGHTS: This is a complex book. There seems to be no order to it. It randomly jumps from Teddy's childhood, to his old age, to his war years and back, interspersed with the lives of his one daughter, Viola, and her two children, Sunny and Bertie, and back again. And yet, with her own inimitable style, Kate Atkinson pulls it off and rather splendidly at that. It is like sitting with a loved elderly relative, listening to them reminisce, where one memory leads to another, the tenuous thread that connects them known only to the narrator. And yet Atkinson draws you into this family. I laughed, I cried. I seethed at Viola's indifference to her children, her father. I flew with Teddy on his sorties over Germany, crossing my fingers to keep him safe. I applauded his rescue of Sunny (aka Philip Villiers) from the Villiers enclave, and his careful nurturing of Bertie. And I wept at his gentle decline in residential care. This is both a heart-wrenching and heartwarming read. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the 'about' page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com https://wordpress.com/post/sandysbook...

  14. 4 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    I DNF'd this book last night. I was so bored with A God in Ruins that I skipped the second half of the book and advanced to the end of the book. There is a twist at the end of the story, but it was too little and too late, and I had kind of predicted it anyway. As with Life After Life, it was not the writing that put me off. Kate Atkinson clearly has a talent for writing beautiful prose. My problem was again with the plot. I found it very hard to get invested in the story of Teddy, the brother of Ur I DNF'd this book last night. I was so bored with A God in Ruins that I skipped the second half of the book and advanced to the end of the book. There is a twist at the end of the story, but it was too little and too late, and I had kind of predicted it anyway. As with Life After Life, it was not the writing that put me off. Kate Atkinson clearly has a talent for writing beautiful prose. My problem was again with the plot. I found it very hard to get invested in the story of Teddy, the brother of Ursula from Life After Life. A God in Ruins is not one of those books that is driven by plot, and so it relies on its characters being interesting enough to keep reading. While Teddy's daughter, Viola, could have provided this interest, Teddy didn't. I get that Teddy was a representation of the many WW2 pilots who returned from the war to lead very ordinary lives without fuss and much excitement, and I appreciate that Teddy is a tribute to those men. However, I would rather read about these men from non-fiction sources than in a fictional environment. As for the point of the book that events and lives are interlinked and a change in one results in a ripple effect that will change others, I believe this came across quite well in Life After Life and did not need the additional elaboration of Teddy's story in A God in Ruins.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Even though Kate Atkinson took readers back into the beautiful world that she created for the Todd family, this story wasn't nearly as enjoyable as Life After Life. This time, the story focused on Teddy. It is told through the mixed up timeline that I've come to expect from Atkinson. We get to see Teddy's relationships, family and inner thoughts. It didn't have the magic of Ursula's story, in my opinion. In Life After Life, I was enthralled. For the majority of A God in Ruins, I was not. I was surp Even though Kate Atkinson took readers back into the beautiful world that she created for the Todd family, this story wasn't nearly as enjoyable as Life After Life. This time, the story focused on Teddy. It is told through the mixed up timeline that I've come to expect from Atkinson. We get to see Teddy's relationships, family and inner thoughts. It didn't have the magic of Ursula's story, in my opinion. In Life After Life, I was enthralled. For the majority of A God in Ruins, I was not. I was surprised that I liked very few of the characters. Viola, in particular, was awful. I realize that that is partially the point, but still- it's hard to appreciate the story when you don't like most of the major characters. The writing was still lovely, but I didn't connect to this book the way that I did with the other one. I'm rather disappointed actually.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    “The whole edifice of civilization turned out to be constructed from an unstable mix of quicksand and imagination.” ― Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins "It's still the same old story A fight for love and glory A case of do or die The world will always welcome lovers As time goes by" -Frank Sinatra, As Time Goes By In the 2013 déjà-vu epic Life After Life Kate Atkinson played out "what if?" in a loop-de-loop plot that tossed narrative structure to the wind. It is a brilliant, confounding, playful and po “The whole edifice of civilization turned out to be constructed from an unstable mix of quicksand and imagination.” ― Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins "It's still the same old story A fight for love and glory A case of do or die The world will always welcome lovers As time goes by" -Frank Sinatra, As Time Goes By In the 2013 déjà-vu epic Life After Life Kate Atkinson played out "what if?" in a loop-de-loop plot that tossed narrative structure to the wind. It is a brilliant, confounding, playful and poignant novel. A God In Ruins returns us to Fox Corner and the Todd family of Life After Life, but aware that clever conceit is best eaten while warm, Atkinson returns to a more conventional structure for this "companion" novel. Sort of. A God In Ruins plucks Teddy Todd from Ursula Todd's war and follows his life, from RAF bomber during WWII to his final days in a nursing home in the 21st century. The trajectory is not chronological—the narrative leaps back and forth between the skies over Hamburg to Teddy's prosaic, duty-bound post-war life, foreshadowing and reflecting back on itself—but unlike Life After Life, Teddy lives but one life (I feel it necessary to say that although A God In Ruins is a standalone novel, you'd be doing yourself a terrible disservice by not reading Life After Life first. Not only is it a phenomenal read, but you will enter A God In Ruins already knowing and loving these characters and appreciating the winks and nods blithely scattered in the text). While still presenting the artifice of fiction—in the Author's Note, Atkinson states that fiction is essentially "how we must imagine what we cannot know"—A God In Ruins is about young men and war. It is an homage to the many who do not survive and the story of how it leaves in ruins those young gods who do. The novel is built on Teddy's flashes of memory and in this way, it carries forward the sense of déjà-vu that made Life After Life such a tour de force. But Ruins is quieter, except for the breathless scenes of bomber raids that Teddy leads. The reader never knows who will return alive (90 percent of the young men who joined the WWII Bomber Command did not) and the drama is rendered in extraordinary, fever-pitch detail. Contrasting Teddy's Greatest Generation heroics is the ridiculousness of his daughter, Viola, who Atkinson writes in caricature, almost unfairly at times. It's impossible not to laugh or smirk at Viola's irrelevant, hapless life, except when you are bemoaning her tragic neglect of her children, son Sunny and daughter Bertie (and Atkinson indulges in some terrific metafiction moments, offered like sticky Turkish Delight—Viola shuffles from indulgent hippy to pampered bestselling writer, her chipped shoulder leading the way). In a quieter display of domestic heroics, Teddy steps in as dutiful, if not overtly tender, grandfather. There is a thick scar of tension running between Viola and her father, slowly revealed as the courtship and marriage of Teddy and Viola's mother, Nancy, unfolds. I still come cross readers who have never heard of Atkinson (whaaaaa???) or dismiss her because of the supposed-genre Jackson Brodie series. I can press her books into the hand of the innocently ignorant; the willfully ignorant don't merit the breath. Kate Atkinson is one of the finest, most versatile, humane and intelligent storytellers of our generation. Dismiss her at your own peril and loss. If Life After Life is about beginning and beginning again, A God In Ruins is about our inevitable end. And speaking of endings, well, no, I won't. I can't. Just don't mind me for sinking to the floor, clutching at the pieces of my broken heart.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I regret so much that I never got back to write a review close to when I finished reading this book. It's unfair to my reading experience, the book and the author. But I didn't want to leave this spot empty forever so I will add a bit. For those who have read Life After Life, I definitely recommend this. For those who haven't, it likely will stand alone but will lose some of it's meaning because of the inter-related stories. I am going to include what I wrote in a late status update when I finis I regret so much that I never got back to write a review close to when I finished reading this book. It's unfair to my reading experience, the book and the author. But I didn't want to leave this spot empty forever so I will add a bit. For those who have read Life After Life, I definitely recommend this. For those who haven't, it likely will stand alone but will lose some of it's meaning because of the inter-related stories. I am going to include what I wrote in a late status update when I finished the book: What a ride Atkinson takes us on. One of my early text notes spoke to Teddy reliving his life figuratively while Ursula relived it in reality. Now I must amend this a bit. I see Ursula's life as integration and Teddy's as disintegration: so many forces at play on him. I won't go into that further but I will say this was a very satisfying novel, if not quite as spectacular as Life After Life. Atkinson is one of my favorite authors. She takes risks with her characters and her readers. I will read her next book and have some of her backlog to catch up with (thankfully). I rate this 4.5*, just slightly behind Life After Life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    "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 In this companion piece to Life After Life Atkinson writes about Teddy Todd: beloved younger brother of Ursula, would-be poet, husband, father, grandfather, World War II bomber pilot. In it, she breathes life into themes that are both extraordinary and mundane: the shortness and fragility of life, the certainty of death, the fall from gra "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 In this companion piece to Life After Life Atkinson writes about Teddy Todd: beloved younger brother of Ursula, would-be poet, husband, father, grandfather, World War II bomber pilot. In it, she breathes life into themes that are both extraordinary and mundane: the shortness and fragility of life, the certainty of death, the fall from grace that is war, the redemptive power of love, the artifice and reality of fiction. All are dealt in Atkinson's intelligent and quirky style. I fell in love with Teddy and I wept for all young people whose lives are ruined by war and who miss out on what otherwise could have been. Atkinson made me laugh and she made me cry. She made me think and she left me profoundly shaken. How could I ask for anything more from a novel?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I hated myself for not loving this book. I was stunned by Life after Life. I waited anxiously for this book. And while I did love many parts, I didn't like others. Atkinson is a wonderful writer, her characters are all interesting and unique. Her stories are quite compelling, disturbing, historically perfect. I ate up everything, except for the actual war stories. While Teddy was flying, piloting, I found myself skipping over those parts. They held no interest for me, and I was mad at myself but I hated myself for not loving this book. I was stunned by Life after Life. I waited anxiously for this book. And while I did love many parts, I didn't like others. Atkinson is a wonderful writer, her characters are all interesting and unique. Her stories are quite compelling, disturbing, historically perfect. I ate up everything, except for the actual war stories. While Teddy was flying, piloting, I found myself skipping over those parts. They held no interest for me, and I was mad at myself but I couldn't read them. I felt like I was watching an old black and white war movie. Which I suppose, is actually a compliment because that's kind of what it was. Every single character was wonderful in their own way. I loved Teddy. I cheered for him, I cried for him. While I was a bit disappointed in spots, there were others that were miraculous, that made my heart soar. The ending gave me goosebumps. I wish I could give this 4 stars, I know I am in the minority here, but much of the reading was almost a chore. I'm glad I finished it, and I definitely would recommend it. I just didn't love it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gary the Bookworm

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Teddy Todd is a character from Kate Atkinson's earlier novel Life After Life. He is the beloved baby brother, and favorite son at Fox Corner, the Todd family home in the London suburbs. He grows up to be a bomber pilot in World War II and is either killed on a risky mission toward the end of the war or goes on to live a long life as a husband, father and grandfather. Atkinson considers both scenarios, but this novel focuses on the latter. She calls this a companion piece to Life After Life, whic Teddy Todd is a character from Kate Atkinson's earlier novel Life After Life. He is the beloved baby brother, and favorite son at Fox Corner, the Todd family home in the London suburbs. He grows up to be a bomber pilot in World War II and is either killed on a risky mission toward the end of the war or goes on to live a long life as a husband, father and grandfather. Atkinson considers both scenarios, but this novel focuses on the latter. She calls this a companion piece to Life After Life, which is about Ursula, Teddy's older sister, and her multiple lives. I fell in love with all the Todds, so I approached this with high expectations. Whereas, Life After Life is about life's possibilities, this is fundamentally about making the best of the vicissitudes of the ordinary. Teddy "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." If he was powerless to shape his future, he was determined to live his life with integrity and "he resolved that he would try always to be kind. It was the best he could do. It was all that he could do. And it might be love, after all." The title comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “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.” Flight is a recurring theme. When Teddy and Ursula attend a performance of Beethoven's Ninth in war-torn London, "Teddy resolved to simply feel the music and stopped searching for words to describe it, and by the time the fourth movement came around and Roy Henderson, the baritone, began to sing ( O Freude! ), the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up. In her seat beside him, Ursula was almost quivering with the power of emotion, like a coiled spring, a bird ready to rise from the ground at any moment. Towards the end of the final movement, when the magnificence of the Choral becomes almost unbearable, Teddy had the odd sensation that he might actually have to hold on to his sister to prevent her rising into the air and taking flight." Passages like this suggest to me that Atkinson has been touched by the divine. If she never wrote another word, this novel should assure her place in the pantheon of World Literature. http://www.npr.org/2015/06/08/4116967...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Harris

    I received an ARC of this from the publisher. The cover of the book reads: What if the new Kate Atkinson were even better than the last? Well, A God in Ruins is in some ways similar to Life After Life. It’s a companion piece, built along a similarly complex timeline and focusing on the life of Ursula Todd’s younger brother Teddy; his part in the War; his marriage; his reluctant navigation of the perilous, shifting waters of the twentieth century. Like all Kate Atkinson’s work, it is a masterly I received an ARC of this from the publisher. The cover of the book reads: What if the new Kate Atkinson were even better than the last? Well, A God in Ruins is in some ways similar to Life After Life. It’s a companion piece, built along a similarly complex timeline and focusing on the life of Ursula Todd’s younger brother Teddy; his part in the War; his marriage; his reluctant navigation of the perilous, shifting waters of the twentieth century. Like all Kate Atkinson’s work, it is a masterly piece of writing; the prose is clear and elegant; sometimes wryly humorous; often touching and with a wistful awareness of passing time that underpins the narrative with a constant sense of melancholy. There is, however, an odd disparity between the portrayal of the characters – those of the older generation are lovingly and richly drawn, while the younger ones (and most of the minor characters) are often prone to caricature and stereotype. We have characters coded according to accent, region, hair colour, social class and the kind of newspaper they read; and Viola, Teddy’s daughter, embodies every hippie cliché there is (Vegetarianism, life in a commune, homespun clothing, lentils, a couple of children named Sun and Moon). There’s also a tendency to characterize through little asides, helpfully delivered by other members of the cast, as if anticipating questions from an eventual readers’ group. Thus, at one point, Teddy asks himself if his assessment of his daughter’s personality counts as cod-psychology (it does); later, he muses, rather self-consciously, that Viola’s difficult character may have been shaped by her mother’s early death (it has). It is a kind of ironic wink to the reader – but that irony is also the means of keeping us at a distance; of reminding us that we are simply reading fragments of narrative on a page. I love Kate Atkinson’s writing. It is beautiful and perfectly-pitched - but there is an emotional detachment to her narrative that I have always found a little frustrating. To me, it often seems aloof, teasing the emotions, but deliberately withdrawing the hand just before it reaches the heart. Brilliant but (this may be my fault) ultimately, leaving me cold.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Helle

    This novel is why I read. I first met Kate Atkinson in Life after Life, which, while not quite being a five-star read for me, made me want to explore her work further. A God in Ruins, a companion to Life after Life, revisits the same characters and adds layers of story and understanding to the lives of the Todd family. (You do not have to read Life after Life first; they are not chronologically sequenced). The heart of this novel is Teddy, an RAF bomber pilot in World War II, the sister of Ursula This novel is why I read. I first met Kate Atkinson in Life after Life, which, while not quite being a five-star read for me, made me want to explore her work further. A God in Ruins, a companion to Life after Life, revisits the same characters and adds layers of story and understanding to the lives of the Todd family. (You do not have to read Life after Life first; they are not chronologically sequenced). The heart of this novel is Teddy, an RAF bomber pilot in World War II, the sister of Ursula in Life after Life, the father of Viola and grandfather of Sonny and Bertie/Roberta. They are our central players in this novel which weaves back and forth in time, letting a scene in the future unfold here, going back into the past and filling in a bit of backstory there – like a giant patchwork gradually taking shape. The novel is above all rich, and there is so much to love in it. Here is my incomplete list (which includes both ‘items’ from the story and the author’s tools): Teddy’s love for Sonny The dogs The depiction of Sonny’s childhood (raw, ruthless but oh, so honest) Teddy’s interlude with Julia and her family’s art (and the loss of a Rembrandt) The relationship between Teddy and his flight crew Viola’s regrets, ultimately Atkinson’s sardonic comments sprinkled throughout a narrative that is fundamentally warm Her knowing insights into family dynamics Her allusions and direct references to numerous other works of literature, incl. Bleak House, Anna Karenina, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, A Room with a View, Barchester Towers, The Pilgrim’s Progress But most of all the novel’s holy trinity of humour, heart and intelligence; or plot, prose and characters – plausible, flawed and multifaceted characters – all serving the higher purpose of a narrative whose themes and images are set in motion by the same characters. Like Teddy’s bomber itself, character and theme are sent spinning into the air and only gradually (in the beginning, the lack of chronology was confusing) form a pattern, the jigsaw finally forming what was – (view spoiler)[or could have been (hide spoiler)] - a life. What I didn’t like: The cover. It doesn’t half measure up to the beautiful cover of my copy of Life after Life and, more importantly, belies the richness of the book itself. But I suppose that is a detail. And it was the only thing I didn't like. There were times when the way Atkinson uses language reminded me of Julian Barnes’s writing, for instance in her repetition of images and thematic phrases like The dead were legion. (The gods had their own secret agenda) + (…) and so they continued throwing the birds against the wall, and still the wall stood, the latter a recantation of the act of killing during the war – and its hopeless contribution to a solution. (Another repeated, concrete symbol was a small, silver hare with an ivory teething ring attached to it, which touches several of the Todd’s lives and which Teddy carries with him as a talisman when he is on his ‘tours’ (bombing raids). This touched me because, incredibly, I had one such silver hare with an ivory teething ring when I was a baby). The novel is about the devastations of wars, of World War II on its participants; of growing up and growing old, of joys and disappointments, but ultimately it is about fiction, the fiction of stories, the fiction of our lives and what we make of them in the face of atrocities – war, illness, family disillusionment. There were scenes that nearly broke my heart, and there were episodes that made me laugh out loud. As the publishers might have described Kate Atkinson on the cover of the book: a writer at the height of her powers. I loved this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    3.5 stars This second book in the 'Todd Family' saga concentates on Teddy Todd. It works well as a standalone. ***** "A God in Ruins" revolves around Teddy Todd, who - in a nutshell - grew up in the English countryside, was the apple of his mother's eye, lost his loving father, was close to his sister Ursula, became a bomber pilot in WWII, married his childhood sweetheart, worked as a journalist, had a horrid narcissistic daughter, helped raise his grandchildren, got old, and died. The book rep 3.5 stars This second book in the 'Todd Family' saga concentates on Teddy Todd. It works well as a standalone. ***** "A God in Ruins" revolves around Teddy Todd, who - in a nutshell - grew up in the English countryside, was the apple of his mother's eye, lost his loving father, was close to his sister Ursula, became a bomber pilot in WWII, married his childhood sweetheart, worked as a journalist, had a horrid narcissistic daughter, helped raise his grandchildren, got old, and died. The book repeatedly pings back and forth in time, covering incidents from Teddy's childhood to his very old age. Overall, we see Teddy as a happy child, growing up and going to college, traveling in Europe, joining the RAF, dropping bombs on Germany. becoming a POW, having a relatively good marriage, dealing with a difficult daughter, encouraging a seemingly inept grandson, taking a nostalgic trip with his grown granddaughter, moving to assisted living, dying in a nursing home.....and lots of things in between. The book doesn't lend itself to review as a story with a linear plot so I'll just highlight aspects that stood out for me. Some of the most vivid scenes in the book describe Teddy and his bomber team (navigator, radio operator, bomb aimer, gunners, etc.) on their forays into enemy territory. The relatively slow, lumbering bombers took off from an English airfield, flew in the dark - often for many hours - and were easy targets for both groundfire and enemy fighter planes. Moreover, to Teddy's chagrin (as he found out after the war) the early bombers were often wildly inaccurate, blitzing civilians rather than the intended industrial targets. The author's deft writing brings Teddy's RAF companions to life, and I liked and sympathized with them as they fought and often died. In the course of the story Teddy has a philosophical discussion with his sister about the morality of bombing Germany to smithereens. Teddy seems to feel no guilt about this, apparently believing that all's fair in war and you do what you have to do. For me, this seems like an understandable attitude but other readers may feel differently. After the war,Teddy marries his fiancé Nancy and they have a daughter named Viola. Little Viola is a sweet child, very attached to her mom. Sadly, Nancy dies young and Viola blames Teddy, is overwhelmed with grief, and - perhaps because of this (but who knows) - evolves into a selfish, self-absorbed woman, oblivious to the needs of others. Viola is almost a caricature of a 'flower child', taking up a hippie lifestyle, living on communes, becoming a vegetarian, and having one boyfriend (or husband) after another. Viola eventually has a son she calls 'Sunny' and a daughter she calls 'Moon', being too carefree (or lazy) to choose conventional names. Moon, who renames herself 'Bertie', is an insightful child that has Viola's number from the get-go. In any case, Viola soon abandons her children, leaving them in Teddy's care. In one of the more disturbing sections of the book Viola sends 7-year-old Sunny to live with his bipolar father's family. The poor little tyke's 'grandmama' belongs to the neglectful school of child-rearing. She provides no love or nurturing, very little food, and criticizes Sunny (who she calls Philip) constantly. Grandmama is also determined to send little Sunny to boarding school so he can grow up and continue the family name. Sunny is miserable but gets his own back a bit when - prevented from reaching the bathroom in time by Grandmama - he takes a dump on the living room carpet (ha ha ha). It's also clear that Viola has little love or time for her father Teddy who - especially when he gets on in years - she regards as a burden and annoyance. Mostly Viola seems to covet Teddy's more valuable possessions. Viola eventually becomes a successful novelist and makes some half-hearted attempts to reconnect with her children, but it's too little too late. Bertie's attitude toward her mom is especially knowing and sardonic and Sunny takes off for foreign shores. Teddy himself comes across as a handsome, affable, intelligent man who tries to live a good life and be a good person. As a youth, however, Teddy has a rather flexible moral code. Even though he's engaged to his sweetheart Nancy during WWII, Teddy has no hesitation about romance and sex with other women, the apparent explanation being that pilots had a very short life expectancy. Still, after the war Teddy is a loyal husband and loving grandpa who's largely responsible for the happiness and success his grandchildren eventually achieve. In lighter parts of the story, Teddy - as a child - is the model for his Aunt Izzy's series of children's books about 'Augustus', a hilariously naughty little boy. The tales of Augustus sprinkled through the book are fun and entertaining. Teddy also has several dogs as the story unfolds, and one sweet pooch serves as the mascot for his bomber team. I got a kick out of these endearing pets. I expected to really like this book, which has garnered high praise from critics and readers. And I do think the book is well-written with characters that are vivid and believable. Still, I didn't enjoy the book as much as I'd hoped. It felt too long and slow-moving and I found myself wishing it was finished. Still, I recommend the book to fans of literary fiction. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  24. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Atkinson returns to her theme of “What If” in this companion volume to Life After Life in which we met Ursula Todd and many possible iterations of her life. Ursula’s brother Teddy and his family take center stage in this novel and the generation gap is caught beautifully as Atkinson articulates the view from Ted and that of his only daughter, Viola. Viola’s son and daughter, Sunny and Bertie, exhibit an equal distance from understanding their own mother’s life choices and personality. Kate Atkin Atkinson returns to her theme of “What If” in this companion volume to Life After Life in which we met Ursula Todd and many possible iterations of her life. Ursula’s brother Teddy and his family take center stage in this novel and the generation gap is caught beautifully as Atkinson articulates the view from Ted and that of his only daughter, Viola. Viola’s son and daughter, Sunny and Bertie, exhibit an equal distance from understanding their own mother’s life choices and personality. Kate Atkinson adds an Author’s Note at the end of this story which tells us much of what she was communicating in this novel. “It is about fiction,” she tells us. “We must imagine what we cannot know.” Atkinson chose to look at the Second World War, and makes her central character an RAF airman. Teddy, we wonder at the end, does he even exist? That’s the thing about fiction. All that attention, care, and love lavished, and in the end, they are only characters on paper. But Atkinson caught enough truth in her writing that we know these characters, Ted, Viola, Sunny, are real enough within each of us. What I like best about Atkinson’s work is her sense of humor about the tragedies of human life. She is a wonderful storyteller on the order of a Bruegel painting: large canvas, detailed figures not all doing the good and great thing. She gives us history, and we see the now, but we also get potential for the future. She does not leave us feeling that the thoughtful or erudite must be gloomy or humorless. With this two-book fiction, she gives us enough distance to see possible outcomes of decisions made now, and we always have the sense that we can change the outcomes if we don’t like where we’re headed. Her characters are complex enough to exhibit the petty and the grand. Once again, we always have a sense of possibility: character is malleable! We can change. Atkinson tells us that this novel is “about fiction…and the Fall of Man from grace.” She indicates many references in the novel to Utopia, the Garden, the Way and then the falling, rising pattern of the characters, birds, planes correspond to what she is trying to convey. War is a fall from grace. And no matter how we frame the argument, innocents become victims. Atkinson reiterates that she is not a polemicist so wants her characters instead to express doubt and insecurity about the notion of the efficacy of war. The thing about Atkinson’s fiction is that it is capacious enough to include the traditions of the past with the irresistible freshness and piquancy and social criticism of now. She does a marvelous job of telling a rip-snorting story at the same time she is urging caution. She was always a wonderful writer of fiction. She is in the process of becoming a great one. A word about the audio production of this title: Hachette Audio did a brilliant job of producing this audio, read with terrific understanding by Alex Jennings. It is highly recommended. However, if one is familiar with Kate Atkinson's work, one will note that Atkinson has a tendency to move easily and quickly forward and back in time and between outlooks of various characters. One shift that was particularly difficult for me to catch in the audio was the story of Augustus. At the end, when I realized the importance of Augustus, I had to admit I didn't understand where he fit in. One glance at the paper copy set things straight for me since Augustus' story is set in different type in paper.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    Kate Atkinson is one of my favorite authors. I love her Jackson Brody detective series. I loved the quirky Life After Life in which the heroine, Ursula, keeps dying and coming back to life. Not being much of a reader of war stories (with exceptions such as the brilliant The Things They Carried) I was apprehensive about A God in Ruins, the story of Ursula's beloved brother Teddy, described as a companion novel to Life After Life. The book tells the story of Teddy's experience as a fighter pilot d Kate Atkinson is one of my favorite authors. I love her Jackson Brody detective series. I loved the quirky Life After Life in which the heroine, Ursula, keeps dying and coming back to life. Not being much of a reader of war stories (with exceptions such as the brilliant The Things They Carried) I was apprehensive about A God in Ruins, the story of Ursula's beloved brother Teddy, described as a companion novel to Life After Life. The book tells the story of Teddy's experience as a fighter pilot during World War II. As my five star rating probably shows, my worry was groundless. I adored A God in Ruins, which I read somewhat breathlessly in two sittings (I was worried that I wouldn't finish this 553 page novel in the week's time I had from the library. Clearly, I worry too much.) There's a lot about Teddy's life before and after the war, a lot of the workings of family and relationships, maybe more than there is about the war. But the war and Teddy's role in it are vividly described, and I found those pages both gripping and often harrowing. Atkinson clearly admires and supports the young men (boys, really) who fought the war but she doesn't ignore the bombing of civilians, a deliberate campaign that may or may not have actually helped the Allies win the war. However, she never questions the heroism of the soldiers, here represented by the RAF. I felt especially close to the story as my father was a gunner in the American air force. Reading Teddy's story, I understood why my father talked about his war experiences sparingly, focusing on his time between flights. I rarely feel as involved in the lives of a book's characters, not since I was a child have I felt as passionately about fictional people as I did with this book. I felt angry on Teddy's behalf at his daughter Viola's constant rejection of him. This is no spoiler; as with so much of this book, we find out much about Teddy and Viola's relationship at the outset. Many critical events are revealed early in the story, long before they actually occur in the timeline of the story. The book is written in sections that jump around chronologically so that a chapter set in 1947 may follow or be followed by events taking place in 1993, 2011, or 1925. This reduces some, but not all, plot surprises. The end of the novel is a serious shock and probably will make-or-break readers' ultimate response to the novel. I was shocked and a little angry but it did intrigue me. Ultimately, I loved this novel and its characters (even the awful Viola, Teddy's daughter). I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates excellent writing and passionate story-telling (it's also amazingly well researched). It made me think about second World War more deeply and its cost (and all the other wars we fight) to everyone.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Gobsmacked and in tears at the end. Full review to follow. A worthy sequel to Life After Life, and I'd argue made the better if you read them in order, but also a thing of Beauty and Art (nods to Sylvie) on its own. Gobsmacked and in tears at the end. Full review to follow. A worthy sequel to Life After Life, and I'd argue made the better if you read them in order, but also a thing of Beauty and Art (nods to Sylvie) on its own.

  27. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    “As you got older and time went on, you realized that the distinction between truth and fiction didn’t really matter because eventually everything disappeared into the soupy, amnesiac mess of history. Personal or political, it made no difference.” 4★ What if? Almost exactly a year ago, I enjoyed Ursula’s repeating “What if?” story in Atkinson’s Life After Life, (which I reviewed here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and I was looking forward to this about brother Teddy. But I was more than “As you got older and time went on, you realized that the distinction between truth and fiction didn’t really matter because eventually everything disappeared into the soupy, amnesiac mess of history. Personal or political, it made no difference.” 4★ What if? Almost exactly a year ago, I enjoyed Ursula’s repeating “What if?” story in Atkinson’s Life After Life, (which I reviewed here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and I was looking forward to this about brother Teddy. But I was more than halfway through before I really got interested in Teddy and his family. What was the truth? Which character do I believe? Of course, overshadowing everything is why do we not learn from the horrors of previous wars? I trusted Atkinson’s eccentric storytelling, so I kept reading. She manages family dynamics so well, and I enjoy her off-beat humour that pops up unexpectedly. “Sylvie removed her fur and put on her light evening duster for which only hard-working silkworms had been sacrificed.” . . . “When he came back outside, into the harsh daylight, the dog sniffed him suspiciously for signs of infidelity. . . . ‘Surprise?’ she said when she eventually tracked him down. ‘It is,’ he said. They had hugged warily, as if one of them might have a knife. . . . “She had sent an email to her agent and asked her to tell people that she was having an operation (she was, she was having her mind removed) and to make her apologies all round.” Viewpoints change. We hear from Teddy’s parents, Teddy, Nancy, Violet and others. Teddy grew up loving nature and picked flowers for his adoring, glamorous mother (Sylvie, of the fur and silk). The British were hammered in both World Wars, and Teddy’s childhood was coloured by it. His father, Hugh, who “retired to his growlery again with a small glass of whisky and the stub of a half-smoked cigar”, once told a neighbour that “Sylvie had no intention of discussing the war. It had been a rip in the fabric of their lives and she had sewn it up neatly. ‘Oh, that’s a very good way of putting it, Hugh,’ Mrs Shawcross – Roberta – said. ‘But, you know, unless you can do very good invisible stitching there’ll always be a scar, won’t there?’ He regretted introducing the needlework metaphors.” I enjoyed the gradual peeling back of the layers of each character’s understanding of each other. I had decided too quickly what each person was like or was capable of. I still don’t like her, but I understand why Teddy’s and Nancy’s only child Viola appears to be a distasteful spoiled brat who rebels when she grows up and moves to a commune with a disreputable character and has two kids: Sun and Moon. “He loved Viola as only a parent can love a child, but it was hard work.” And I understand Teddy, who faced war so young and did his best to deal with it. But Nancy, at home, didn’t appreciate the price he paid. “His aircraft had been coned and shot down by flak on the dreadful raid to Nuremberg. He hadn’t known it at the time but it was the worst night of the war for Bomber Command – ninety-six aircraft lost, five hundred and forty-five men killed, more than in the whole Battle of Britain. But by the time he made it home this was all old, cold news, Nuremberg all but forgotten. ‘You were very brave,’ Nancy said, with the same encouraging indifference – to Teddy’s ears anyway – that she might have afforded him if he had done well in a maths test. And I admire Atkinson, who can write a companion piece to Life After Life which offers us the WHAT IFS? that make us think. I hope I’m not doing her a disservice by quoting from the end of the book, just to remind us, lest we forget: “Fifty-five thousand, five hundred and seventy-three dead from Bomber Command. Seven million German dead, including the five hundred thousand killed by the Allied bombing campaign. The sixty million dead overall of the Second World War, including eleven million murdered in the Holocaust. The sixteen million of the First World War, over four million in Vietnam, forty million to the Mongol conquests, three and a half million to the Hundred Years War, the fall of Rome took seven million, the Napoleonic Wars took four million, twenty million to the Taiping Rebellion. And so on and so on and so on, all the way back to the Garden when Cain killed Abel.” The only reason it isn't 5 stars from me is because it took me so long to get it, if I can put it that way.

  28. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    “The dead were legion, and remembrance was a kind of duty…not always related to love.” This is Atkinson’s companion piece (her words) to Life After Life, the story of the privileged Todd family in Fox Corner, in England, with WW II as the highlight of events. A GOD IN RUINS could be read without having read the previous novel, but it has so much more meaning if you read them both. This is a tour de force, and after having closed the last page in tears, and meditated on this astounding book, perha “The dead were legion, and remembrance was a kind of duty…not always related to love.” This is Atkinson’s companion piece (her words) to Life After Life, the story of the privileged Todd family in Fox Corner, in England, with WW II as the highlight of events. A GOD IN RUINS could be read without having read the previous novel, but it has so much more meaning if you read them both. This is a tour de force, and after having closed the last page in tears, and meditated on this astounding book, perhaps I am ready to attempt some sort of review, or at least some reflections. However, I feel so inadequate to convey the brilliance of this luminous novel. Life After Life focused on the upbringing of the five Todd children, especially Ursula (the third), who, via Atkinson’s effective device, died and was reborn (as Ursula again) many times. These numerous iterations of Ursula didn’t come across as contrived, as it didn’t depend on the device itself to execute the theme and heft of the story. Rather, Ursula’s many lives deepened her character, and also elucidated how civilization views, revises, and categorizes history, and how the construct of memories are as impermanent as a day. It is the ephemeral nature of life, and our construct of memories in making the chronicle of past events permanent, that are explored so well in both these novels. There are many themes that abound in the Todd family struggles—love, family, authenticity, loss, renewal, and perception, among others. But, what struck me most was the outcome of a battered era, when war is over--missed connections, misunderstandings, and isolation. How to live a future when you are carrying a burden of a damaged past? Atkinson pulls off an epic tale of history, seen through the eyes of one family, with compelling genre-bending talent. This book focuses on Ursula’s brother, Teddy, an RAF bomber during WW II--the squadron leader--fierce, courageous, heroic---who saw war in all its savagery, as he bombed whole cities and watched them burn from an aerial distance. There were times when the raw beauty of the flames down below were poetic—what a paradox—how killing the innocent had a feral beauty to it. “The coloured lights were joined by the bright quick flashes of the high explosives…and everywhere there was the enchanting twinkling of white lights as thousands upon thousands of incendiaries rained down on the city.” (Hamburg burning) Both Teddy and Ursula understood the complex dualities of war--enough to understand that, in order to stay alive, and fulfill your duty as a military servant, there can be no equivocating in the field--or in the air. Only later, when it is history, can the lens shift to judgment. Judging in hindsight wreaks the havoc of guilt and the righteousness of war. Teddy, postwar, was a diminished self--quiet, passive, accepting, but full of kindness and generosity. Unfortunately, he couldn't convey his feelings with any passion, and the war figure of Teddy was subsumed and mostly forgotten. Moreover, Teddy's love for his wife and childhood sweetheart, Nancy, lacked passion. But he was devoted to her, with a robust dependability. The metaphor of war--its brutal, tyrannizing power--can also be assigned to the seismic misunderstanding in families--in this case, Teddy's daughter, Viola, who was in a solitary battle with her father. Once her mother died, she felt abandoned and betrayed, and, although she herself abandoned her children, (several times) for her selfish quests, she wouldn't forgive her father for being the parent who stayed alive to raise her. Atkinson’s postmodern-ish narrative is told through the lens of time periods and generations regularly juxtaposed, the structure of which would fall apart in the hands of a lesser author. She splices time into slivers, really, yet seamlessly segues and alternates time so that when one passage jumps a generation back and forth, it gives weight not just to what is happening now, but what happened before, and what will occur in the future. The author allows us to see particular scenes from multi-perspectives—not just from different characters, but sometimes one character remembering multiple times, at a later or earlier occasion. Sublime. Atkinson also winks at us with references to Life After Life. Certain events that happened offstage in LAL are illuminated here, and she executes the inverse flawlessly, also; she periodically pulls us offstage in her new book with nods to major events from LAL. The past and present are wrapped around each other, days of future passed. Time is not a banner laid out linearly, but rather a gossamer and vertical mass of bridged and dissonant memories. Teddy lives to be almost a century old (as we learn early on), and throughout the novel, the narrative see-saws from Teddy the child, in the mid 1920s, to Teddy the Bomber pilot during the war, later as a husband and father, then a loving grandfather, and then as a dying old man. Even though we know the outline of the future—Atkinson purposely telegraphs events—I was emotionally blitzed by her phenomenal storytelling, as she fills in the spaces of scenarios and allows us to see deeper into her characters. This will undoubtedly go down as one of my top 25 novels of a lifetime. I don't think that Kate Atkinson is finished with the Todd family yet. There's Bertie (Roberta) and Sunny, Teddy's beloved grandchildren, and then there are the lives of those that were only casually referenced. The author may choose to place them on center stage. I can't imagine Teddy as an offhand character; however, the author is a wizard at pulling her characters into the light, or dissolving them into the darkness.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Kate Atkinson kills me again. I'd write a review if I wasn't so bitter & broken-hearted that I'm not still immersed in Teddy's world. (But review-ish: this is just barely not quite the soul-crusher that Life After Life was just because Viola exists in the book & she's so utterly awful & self-absorbed & goddammit just totally awful that every time she came up on the page I got yoinked right out of the story with extreme annoyance. And I liked reading about Bertie from everyone else's perspective, Kate Atkinson kills me again. I'd write a review if I wasn't so bitter & broken-hearted that I'm not still immersed in Teddy's world. (But review-ish: this is just barely not quite the soul-crusher that Life After Life was just because Viola exists in the book & she's so utterly awful & self-absorbed & goddammit just totally awful that every time she came up on the page I got yoinked right out of the story with extreme annoyance. And I liked reading about Bertie from everyone else's perspective, but I could have done without her chapter - yes, Bertie, I didn't like that guy you dated either & I really didn't want to read about him or the seminar you were at. But except for Viola, this is book is deadly. I could seriously almost cry that I have nothing more in front of me to read about Teddy & WWII. Atkinson can write WWII like no one else. Brilliant).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    A God in Ruins is a companion novel to Life After Life, the story of Ursula Todd who expired and was reborn multiple times during the first half of the 20th Century. Her brother Teddy was a RAF pilot during World War II who was shot down and missing in action. In A God in Ruins we learn that he had been in a German POW camp for two years before returning to England. The book is written with a constant shifting back and forth in time. The story starts slowly with incidents about Teddy's childhood A God in Ruins is a companion novel to Life After Life, the story of Ursula Todd who expired and was reborn multiple times during the first half of the 20th Century. Her brother Teddy was a RAF pilot during World War II who was shot down and missing in action. In A God in Ruins we learn that he had been in a German POW camp for two years before returning to England. The book is written with a constant shifting back and forth in time. The story starts slowly with incidents about Teddy's childhood and old age. His wife, their daughter Viola, and his grandchildren are also important in this multi-generational saga. Viola is a selfish woman who neglects her children. She goes from an unorganized commune to other bad situations looking for fulfillment. She was a witness to an event that Teddy always kept secret, and it drove a wedge between them. Viola is almost overdrawn as a character, appearing totally unlikable. Teddy is a kind, stoic man who signs up for the RAF during World War II, finding his passion in flying bombers. The book picks up pace during the war years with very exciting, well-researched writing about the bombing runs. The story does not ignore the fact that many civilians were also killed as the bombs were dropped on their targets. Skill, a tight crew, and a lot of luck was involved in surviving as a RAF pilot. It's worth reading A God in Ruins just for the excellent chapters about Teddy's war years. The ending came with a twist that is a clever bit of storytelling, and fits in well with the spirit of the two books.

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