In case you have missed my constant gushing the past six months, I absolutely loved Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life. It instantly moved onto my list of favorite books of all time. So, although I rarely read new releases while they are still new, I couldn’t wait to read her companion novel, A God in Ruins. My husband gave it to me for Mother’s Day (as soon as it was released), and I devoured it for my first Big Book of the Summer.
A God in Ruins is a companion novel to Life After Life, not a sequel, because it covers some of the same time period but from a different character’s perspective, and you can enjoy this novel as a stand-alone. Life After Life was all about Ursula, who relived her life many times, while the companion novel is about Ursula’s brother, Teddy. Unlike Ursula, Teddy lives his life in a more ordinary way, just once, from start to finish, so it’s a different kind of novel, though Atkinson still has some surprises in store for readers.
Like Life After Life, A God in Ruins moves back and forth in time, showing different parts of Teddy’s life. It begins in 1925 when Teddy is eleven years old, walking with his aunt through the meadow. Life After Life fans will immediately recognize that Aunt Izzie is starting her research for her best-selling children’s series about a boy named Augustus, using Teddy as her model (sort of). From there, the story jumps ahead to 1980 to Teddy’s daughter and grandchildren.
The novel moves back and forth through time like that, with an emphasis on Teddy’s time as a World War II pilot. Teddy was a talented pilot who had some extraordinary experiences during the war and impacted (and saved) many lives of his fellow RAF fliers. The story follows his marriage to his childhood friend, Nancy, their daughter, Viola’s, life, and even the lives of Teddy’s two grandchildren, Sunny and Bertie, all the way through to 2012.
This is an epic tale of one man’s life and how it touches so many other lives. It’s about the effects of war – on one person as well as on whole societies. The novel covers the entire 20th century as viewed from one man’s perspective and how radically the world changed during that time. Most of all, A God in Ruins is about how extraordinary an ordinary life can be. I was completely captivated by Teddy’s story and that of his descendants and grew to think of them as friends (most of them – Viola was a piece of work!). Since these two books are now referred to as part of the Todd Family series, I am hoping to read more about this amazing family from Atkinson. I can’t wait to see what she does next!
453 pages, Little, Brown and Company
NOTE: This was the first book I read for my 2015 Big Book Summer Challenge. A big book is anything over 400 pages, and you only need to read one to participate - so sign up today and join the fun!