Saturday, September 26, 2015

Book Review: A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Title: A God in Ruins
Author: Kate Atkinson
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Digital Copy
Content Alert: Wartime violence, sex, swearing

If you loved Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (the story of Ursula Todd, an English girl born in 1910 who gets to live her life over and over again until she gets it right) like I loved Life After Life, then you probably anticipated the companion story, A God in Ruins, as much as I did. While Life After Life was full of sorrow, whimsy, and hijinks (and ended with a fist-pumping cheer from me), A God in Ruins felt wholly different in tone. While Ursula Todd's life had more and more possibilities each time she lived it, Teddy Todd's (Ursula's younger brother) narrative feels very straightforward in contrast. Teddy goes off to war, where he's an RAF bomber (where the average life span was about two weeks after being called into action), who returns home from the war to marry the girl next door, father a child, and life a quiet life in York. There are the usual domestic tragedies, but all in all, it's a good life.

I have a friend who was reading A God in Ruins and asked if I'd read it yet. She then told me that she found the book underwhelming, especially after Life After Life. I was really glad that I talked to her before delving into the story myself, because it tempered my expectations enough that I could appreciate the story for what it was. Yes, this story is long, and at times feels a little mundane (although expertly told). There were times when I almost gave up on it, but I persisted, and I'm glad, because the last few pages are knock your socks off-- they reframed the previous 460 and made the whole read feel worth it.

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