The main characters seem frozen, locked inside themselves. Teddy makes no effort to change his life — never travels, experiences no sexual desire after the death of his wife, simply accepts his inevitable decline into old age.
So why bother? This applies not only to the characters, but to England itself, which is portrayed over and over as a drab and diminished place. Flying on bombing raids had become him. Who he was. Part of him never adjusted to having a future. A GOD IN RUINS tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula's beloved younger brother Teddy—would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather-as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world.
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After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have. Fiction Literature Suspense Historical Fiction.
More about Kate Atkinson. A God in Ruins Embed. New here? Learn how to read digital books for free. Media A God in Ruins. His utility expended in the war, Teddy lives out his life as a sedately conformist English gentleman. He gardens, loves his wife Nancy and his grandchildren Bertie and Sunny, and frets over Viola, whose self-absorption defeats him at every turn.
He worships things that outlive the war — birds and flowers and dogs. That does not begin to convey Atkinson's extraordinary grace and control over the story. As in Life After Life , she plays with time like a cat with a string, moving between periods — between war and nursing home, say — often in the same paragraph.
It is unsettling and exhilarating, and reminds the reader that while the past lives with us at every moment, the future does, too, in every decision made or unmade. That narrative control extends to the bravura set pieces particularly descriptions of the unearthly beauty of bombing raids , and sly parenthetical observations on every page an Atkinson specialty.
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Then, just as I'm reading along, enjoying this novel despite or because of the lack of narrative trickiness of Life After Life , a thing happens. A thing I can't write about, without ruining the entire book. All I can say is that it left me with the same "what the hell? In her Author's Note, Atkinson hints at what she was trying to achieve, but I'm not sure a book should require the author tapping you on the shoulder to understand its purpose. I won't say this twist undermines her splendid novel, but it did make me want to talk to someone about it, which is surely one of the reasons we read fiction in the first place.
I might just have to join a book club now. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.
Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins: A gorgeous novel that visits a family changed by war
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