Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins
Title: A God in Ruins
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publication Date: 5/5/15
Pages: 468
How I Found It: I read Atkinson's first novel, Life After Life, and loved it.
Date Completed: 10/6/16

Summary: Teddy Todd, brother of Ursula Todd of Life After Life, gets his own turn in the spotlight. His life as an RAF pilot during WWII, his life as a newlywed, his life as a father, his life as a grandfather, his life in old age - Atkinson moves fluidly throughout Teddy's story.

What I Thought: I loved Atkinson's Life After Life. In fact, I named it one of my favorite reads of 2015. I called it "charming, whimsical, serious, and, above all, well-written." While I would not call A God in Ruins a sequel, per say, it definitely pairs well with the first book. It follows Teddy Todd, Ursula's brother, over the nearly 100 years of his life. Atkinson moves fluidly throughout time and changes perspective at a few points as well. Each piece of the narrative is smoothly sewn together with the others; she has created a beautiful story, one piece at a time. 

I read this book with the book club I've recently started attending. This book has been on my list pretty much since it came out and I am so thankful I had this catalyst to finally read it. I should have done so months ago. I really enjoyed having a chance to talk about the book in an in-person format; this book club thing is nice. 

For some the lack of chronological story-telling may be confusing or difficult to follow. Atkinson does not offer official notice when she has switched decades or narrators. Rather, the reader must pick up on the switches on their own. I did not find this to be difficult and I even listened to most of the book as an audiobook. However, some in my book club did struggle a bit with the style. Personally, I really loved how she slowly pieced together the story of Teddy's life. She offers each piece of the puzzle one at a time, giving us only what we need to know in that moment. I do not think this style works as well for other authors, but Atkinson's mastery of words and the beauty of her prose smooth stylistic choices that may be rough edges for others. 

The story itself deals largely with generational gaps and how family members understand each other. The characters are rich and, though some could be more complex, they each play their part to perfection. Teddy serves throughout as an imperfect hero, someone who has never come to terms with his own place in the world or the acts he committed during the war. His wife, his daughter, his grandchildren, his sister, his mother - they all see Teddy in a different light, none quite fully understanding him except, perhaps, Ursula. 

Atkinson uses the story to impress upon the reader the tragedy of war. She reminds readers of the many lives lost throughout the book and, most intensely, at the end of the novel. I did not see the end coming at all. I really do not want to spoil it for you here; suffice it to say, it was simultaneously infuriating and perfect. Atkinson builds a beautiful world and draws you in deeply only to shake the very foundation in the end, reminding you of the cost of each life. Kevin and I went to Washington D.C. just a couple weeks after I finished this book and I could not help but think of it as I stood in Arlington Cemetery, the war memorials, and in the Holocaust Museum. War is too high a price in so many ways. 

I definitely recommend this book. You do not have to have read Life After Life to understand and appreciate A God in Ruins. They complement each other well, but each can stand independently. Both, however, are worthy of your time and consideration.

Quote I Loved: "Ursula had been dead for decades by then, subtracted from time altogether."

The talk about rationing (in Teddy & Nancy's early marriage) reminded me of Back in Time for Dinner re: the 1950s.

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, possibly
Other Books By Kate Atkinson: Life After Life

A Reduced Review: A poignant look at the life of a WWII fighter pilot and his family; uniquely written with stunningly beautiful prose.

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