Tuesday, November 16, 2021

A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Read by Alex Jennings
Published May 2015 by Litte, Brown and Company

Publisher's Summary:
"He 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. Part of him never adjusted to having a future." 

Kate Atkinson's dazzling Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances and the power of choices, following Ursula Todd as she lived through the turbulent events of the last century over and over again. 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.

After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have.

My Thoughts: 
In a year of great books, Life After Life, was one of my favorites. It went without saying that I would read A God In Ruins; I couldn't wait to see what Atkinson had in store for readers after the ride she took us on in Life After Life

Life After Life is written in a way that very much reflects its very vital protagonist, with its unique format and vivid settings. A God In Ruins is written in very much the same way, except that in this book, we are following the life of a very quiet man (the god of the title) who has lived a very quiet life after his service as a pilot during World War II. He marries the girl he's expected to marry, the girl next door, even though while he loves her, he is certain that he is not in love with her. His career path is unspectacular, his only child is a disappointment who seems not to care very much about him, and his one claim to fame seems to be the books that his aunt wrote that were based on him for their title character. 

Atkinson mostly alternates between Teddy's years in service and his life in post-World War II England but the book begins with a look back at Teddy's childhood years and then jumps forward 45 years to his daughter's life as commune-living hippie who is married to an unsuccessful painter. It quickly becomes apparent that this book, like life After Life, will not have a traditional narrative although it will have a much quieter one. Teddy, like his wife, Nancy, when she discovers she has cancer, and his daughter, Violet, when she tries of writing successful novels, has resigned himself to his life. He is fine, has always been fine, with letting life play out as it will. 
“Now it was settled, now there were no more possibilities.”
Teddy's life is something of a reflection of all of England, post-war. It feels muted. Even when Teddy becomes convinced that his wife is having an affair, there is no real explosion of emotion. Which is not to say that Teddy is without emotion, he just seems incapable of truly expressing it and sometimes, it seems, that is for the best. Teddy is at his best as a pilot because of this and those scenes are the most vivid and alive of the book. 
"He 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. Part of him never adjusted to having a future." 
Just when I was certain that the book would end as quietly as Teddy's live has been lived, Atkinson made me gasp. And that was exactly what made the rest of the book feel entirely different. One of my favorite book endings in a long while. 

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