Kate Atkinson, author of A God In Ruins, is one of my favourite writers. I’ve always wanted to write a book but Atkinson is the sort of writer who makes you think that you couldn’t as you’d never write anything as good as she has. Her series of books about Jackson Brodie, a reluctant detective, are brilliant reads and so much better than their TV adaptation and her debut Behind The Scenes At The Museum is still one of my favourite books. I get jealous if somebody tells me they have never read one of her books as they have so many to discover.
A God In Ruins is her latest novel and is a companion book to Life After Life. You needn’t have read Life After Life to enjoy A God In Ruins, but personally I think you should start with Life After Life anyway, as it’s a great book.
A God In Ruins is all about Teddy Todd, and takes us from his childhood to his death. The book focuses a lot on World War II and Teddy’s time as a bomber pilot and the effect it had on him and his family but also more on the future generations and how it affects Teddy after the war. I’ve never really been that interested in war books and A God In Ruins goes into quite a bit of detail about the perils of being a bomber pilot and I found it really fascinating. Atkinson had researched her topic well and made all the technical bits, that I’d usually find dull, about the different planes and their capabilities interesting and relevant to the story and the characters that you really cared about.
For those who have read Life After Life lots of the characters will be familiar and they all feature heavily including Teddy’s sister, Ursula, who adores him and constantly worries about him during her own war effort, his eccentric and selfish aunt Izzie, who uses him as the muse for a successful fictional character she starts to write about, much to Teddy’s embarrassment and his parents Hugh and Sylvie, who shape his childhood.
Nancy, one of the daughters of the next door neighbours, becomes Teddy’s wife after the war and their ‘romance’ is sad and heart warming at the same time. Teddy falls into becoming a poet and writer but he never seems content with either Nancy or his choice of career. Their daughter Viola is infuriating and this only becomes worse when she reaches adulthood and you feel Teddy’s heartbreak as he worries about his grandchildren, Sunny and Bertie.
As well as the war there is a real theme of romance and loss which runs throughout the book. What would have been if Teddy and Nancy hadn’t got married? Were Hugh and Sylvie ever in love? Would Viola’s adult life have been different if she hadn’t lost her own mum at a young age? What was the point of all those young men, on both sides, dying during the war?
Who knows where Atkinson will take the story next, if anywhere? The end of the book gives a resolution to lots of the plot lines but there could potentially be a book about Sunny and Bertie. All I know is whatever Atkinson writes about next I’ll be buying it.
Have you read A God In Ruins? What did you think? I’d love to know.
There are more ‘Holiday Reading’ posts on the blog, here are a couple of the more recent ones.