Day 718: A God in Ruins

Cover for A God in RuinsBest Book of the Week!
In my opinion, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life was absolutely the best book I read in 2013. It is the story of Ursula Todd, who dies and comes back to life until she accomplishes her goals. A God in Ruins is about her beloved brother Teddy. Atkinson describes it as a companion piece rather than a sequel.

Like Life After Life, Teddy’s story dwells on the effects on his life of World War II, during which Teddy is an RAF bomber pilot. Although the novel covers his entire life in a nonsequential, rambling order, clearly the events of the war are a major focus to which he keeps returning.

During the war he makes himself a promise that if he lives through it, he will always be kind. And he is, to his sisters, his matter-of-fact scientist wife, and his unlikable daughter Viola. When his daughter fails spectacularly at child-rearing, his home is a harbor for his two grandchildren.

Although Teddy does not have Ursula’s ability to shape her own future, during the war he flies so many missions without being killed that his comrades deem him invincible. And in later life his daughter comes to fear he will live forever.

I can’t explain why A God in Ruins is such a wonderful follow-up to Life After Life without giving too much away. Its focus is on the bombing campaign against Germany, and it explores the ethical issues of that campaign, which killed many German civilians. It also shows the waste of the  young men sent to pursue it, sometimes in conditions almost guaranteeing they won’t return. And the terror of these young men.

Atkinson is deft in her depiction of believable characters and is also a beautiful, inventive writer. It’s quite possible that A God in Ruins may be my favorite book of 2015.

Related Posts

Life After Life

Started Early, Took My Dog

The Greatcoat

12 thoughts on “Day 718: A God in Ruins

  1. Carole Besharah June 11, 2015 / 11:44 am

    I really enjoyed Life After Life (except for that bit in the middle with you-know-who). I was skeptical that her new book would not be as good at its 2013 companion,but you’ve convinced me to crack it open. Cheers!

    • whatmeread June 11, 2015 / 11:47 am

      Great! I think you’ll like it!

  2. Naomi June 11, 2015 / 12:16 pm

    Ooh… favorite book so far this year is a good recommendation. I have it on hold at the library!
    Have you read any other books by her (besides Life After Life and Started Early, Took My Dog)? I own a couple that I haven’t read, but I can’t remember which ones. I did read and like Behind the Scenes At the Museum.

    • whatmeread June 11, 2015 / 12:28 pm

      Yes, I think I might have read all of her books, but before I started my blog.

      • Naomi June 11, 2015 / 12:47 pm

        I think I have Emotionally Weird – do you remember that one? Were there any you didn’t like?

      • whatmeread June 11, 2015 / 12:54 pm

        Actually, no, I don’t remember that one. Maybe I haven’t read them all. Some were better than others. I think I liked the Jackson Brodie ones best, before Life After Life. I don’t remember liking, for example, Human Croquet very much.

  3. Carolyn O June 11, 2015 / 12:35 pm

    I’m so glad you liked this one too! I thought it was terrific.

  4. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review June 11, 2015 / 1:02 pm

    It took me a while to get into this one, but in some ways I ended up liking it better than Life After Life. At first it felt disjointed but when the pieces started to fall into place — amazing. Atkinson is great at that.

    • whatmeread June 11, 2015 / 1:04 pm

      Yes, she is. I agree that this one went slower than the other, but I was always interested in what was going on and curious whether Atkinson would do something unusual with it, which of course she did.

  5. TJ @ MyBookStrings June 11, 2015 / 3:37 pm

    How wonderful that this worked so well for you. I was wondering if she could pull off a closely connected follow-up to such a successful book, but apparently, she did.

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