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A God in Ruins: A Novel Paperback – January 12, 2016
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PRAISE FOR A GOD IN RUINS:
"Atkinson isn't just telling a story: she's deconstructing, taking apart the notion of how we believe stories are told. Using narrative tricks that range from the subtlest sleight of hand to direct address, she makes us feel the power of storytelling not as an intellectual conceit, but as a punch in the gut."―Publishers Weekly
"A grown-up, elegant fairy tale...a humane vision of people in all their complicated splendor."―Kirkus
"She also continues to write, as she did in Life after Life, about the savagery of war in clarion prose that is graphic in detail and possessed of a singular melancholy. And whether it is the stoic Teddy, his practical wife, his unbelievably selfish daughter, or his neglected grandchildren, every one of Atkinson's characters will, at one moment or another, break readers' hearts."―Booklist
"A novel so sublime I would nominate it to represent all books in the Art Olympics. The afterword deserves a literary prize all to itself. It is, as claimed on the sumptuous proof, even better than Life After Life."―The Bookseller
"Only as the book unfolds is each character more fully revealed. Ms. Atkinson's artistry in making this happen is marvelously delicate and varied."―Janet Maslin, New York Times
"If you loved Atkinson's Life After Life, you're in luck. If you're one of the, say, five people who didn't read it: You're still in luck--Atkinson is a master at the top of her game. A quiet, moving portrait of a guy navigating life's small pleasures and painful failures."―Marie Claire
"Gorgeous, thought-provoking...once again, Atkinson explores the concept of paths not taken versus those that are. Her hero's journey has its trials...but also joys and deep love. Quiet, humble Teddy is easy to root for. At the end of this tender story (a weeper, by the way), you won't want to let him go."―Good Housekeeping
"Studded with poetry and song, Atkinson's combination of wartime and family drama evokes a lost era, while also showing how World War II helped bring that time to a close. Teddy witnesses the breakdown of class prejudice through camaraderie, the slide from prudishness to promiscuity, and the destruction of the flower-filled meadows he knew in his youth to make way for crops to feed a hungry country. Simultaneously, Atkinson illustrates the difficult transition from wartime to peacetime."―Jaclyn Fulwood, Shelf Awareness
A "dazzling novel."―People
A "rich and enthralling read...Atkinson does a skillful job of interweaving history and fiction. Even more impressively, she combines a brilliantly rendered traditional narrative and warmly believable characters with a postmodern sense of the nature of fiction, the story aware of itself as story."―Colette Bancroft, The Tampa Bay Times
"A sprawling, unapologetically ambitious saga that tells the story of postwar Britain through the microcosm of a single family, and you remember what a big, old-school novel can do."―Tom Perotta, New York Times Book Review
"Atkinson's genre-bending novels have garnered critical praise, but nothing on the order of a Rushdie, or even an Ian McEwan. A God in Ruins should change that."―Amy Gentry, The Chicago Tribune
"Atkinson writes the way LeBron dunks or Stephen Hawking theorizes; she can't help but be brilliant."
―Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"Transcendent."―Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
"a staggeringly gorgeous book, offering through the story of one small, good, imperfect life, the chance to grieve and cherish so many more."―Ellis Avery, Boston Globe
"random, miraculous, and frightening"―Helen T. Veronogos, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Ms. Atkinson rises beautifully to the challenge of dramatizing the raids, capturing the virtually suicidal nature of these operations in muscular, unsentimental prose."―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"beautifully wrought, deeply felt scenes"―Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times
"Reading A GOD IN RUINS feels like encountering a series of perfect scenes from the past half century, jumbled up and spiced with wit and drama. By the end, the point the novel makes through its shuffled deck structure becomes clear, and it's a moving one."―Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News
"I've mostly recovered from the shock of it, but I advise you to never play poker with Atkinson for real money."―Jim Higgins, The Sunday Journal Sentinel
"There is a bit of trickery here, as it turns out, as philosophical as it is novelistic, but the book's pleasures--and it's accomplishments--are ultimately more remarkable that the twist the story finally takes."―Ellen Akins, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Kate Atkinson's intelligence and understanding of humanity informs every page...The reader will at times need to rest the book for a few moments to recover before plunging ahead. It might help, too, to have a box of tissues handy."―Jonathan Rickard, New York Journal of Books
"A novel that takes its place in the line of powerful works about young men and war, stretching from Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage to Kevin Powers's The Yellow Birds and Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk."―Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
"A sprawling, epic novel...A God in Ruins expresses the ways lives can be seen close up, in seemingly unconnected individual moments, or from a distance, as a series of through-lines."―Tasha Robinson, NPR.org
"...more subtly postmodern, shifting between past, present, and future in ways both subversive and perfectly organic."―Boris Kachka, New York Magazine
"As finely crafted as Life After Life...Having spun one great novel out of second, third and 50th chances, she's spun another out of the fact that in reality, we get only one."―Lev Grossman, Time
"Atkinson's strong and evocative turn of phrase, which is both beautiful and strangely conversational, pull readers in, with solid plotting and deep affection for her characters keeping them reading...Teddy Todd survived the war and then he died and, in between, he lived, and every moment is wonderful, even if it was never meant to be."―Kate Erbland, Bustle
"A God in Ruins bills itself as a companion piece to Life After Life, rather than a sequel. In trying this, Atkinson joins some of the most innovative and impressive authors on both sides of the pond, including Hilary Mantel, Marilynne Robinson, and Jane Smiley, who are busy constructing high-brow trilogies and ambitious spinoffs of their own. Atkinson more than lives up to the challenge and proves herself worthy of her company."―Ester Bloom, BarnesandNoble.com
"A God in Ruins is billed as a companion book to Life After Life. Really though, it stands alone in achievement. It's fiction at it's best."―Sherryl Connelly, The New York Daily News
"A brilliant follow-up."―Katy Waldman, Slate
"Masterful."―Ray Palen, Bookreporter
"Atkinson is a master of structure."―Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
"This is that age-old story--man's fall from grace, and his endless struggle to regain it--made wonderfully, achingly new."―Tricia Springstubb, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A hugely impressive and immensely moving novel. Somehow it feels effortless, although clearly that is not the case...Fiction of the very best kind."
―Erica Wagner, New Statesman
"A novel for people who love novels."―Tom Beer, Newsday
"Ms. Atkinson's thrumming imagination runs on premium prose, a perfect vehicle for conveying characters to new futures."―Susan Balée, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"A God in Ruins is Kate Atkinson's brilliant follow-up to Life After Life...This time, Atkinson has written what looks like a big, old-fashioned book, with just enough high-concept risks to make readers start riffling back through the pages as soon as they've done...readers...are never quite in the same condition when they finish a book. When it comes to a novel like A God in Ruins, that change will always be for the better."
―Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor
"A God in Ruins is another triumph for Kate Atkinson...A God in Ruins has a compelling narrative, a myriad of unforgettable scenes, and a bit of the old Atkinson playful craftiness at the very end, a mischievous Ian McEwan-like investigation into the curious ways of fiction writers. Altogether dazzling, A God in Ruins is my pick for the best (so far) novel of 2015."
―Linda Wolfe, Fab Over Fifty
"Magnificent...Atkinson fluidly executes these chronological loop-de-loops, leaving a reader to marvel at that most banal of epiphanies--how fast life goes by."
―Maureen Corrigan, NPR's "Fresh Air"
"This follow up [to Life After Life] tracks Ursula's brother, Teddy, a favorite son who flies an RAF bomber during the Second World War and remains kind, thoughtful, and patient through a life of quiet sadness...Teddy, unlike his sister, lives only one life, but Atkinson's deft handling of time, as she jumps from boyhood to old age and back, is impressive."―The New Yorker
"will leave you turning back the pages, wanting to live it again, mixing up past and present in a delightful bold manner."
―Natalie Serber, The Sunday Oregonian
"Nothing short of a masterpiece. Elegantly structured and beautifully told, it recounts the story of Teddy Todd, the brother of the protagonist of Atkinson's 2013 novel, Life After Life, in his attempt to live a 'good, quiet life' in the 20th century. Characteristically perceptive and poignant, like its predecessor it also gives a vivid and often thrilling account of life during the second world war--seen this time from the air rather than the streets of London."
―Paula Hawkins, Author of The Girl on the Train
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Kate Atkinson is the internationally bestselling author of eight novels, including Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?, Started Early, Took My Dog, and Life After Life. She lives in Edinburgh.
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Top Customer Reviews
The protagonist, Teddy (Edward) Todd, is a stoic bomber for the RAF. I learned more than I ever knew about the RAF, the mechanics of the bombers, especially the Halifax (Teddy’s plane), his different crews when he’s the Skipper, the strategy of the British and untold suffering. The average age of an RAF was 22, and only half of them survived. And shocking to me is that Churchill did not credit them after the war. A different perspective, for sure, of what the British, at least Atkinson, may think of Churchill. When Teddy is challenged about dropping bombs on innocents, Atkinson surely emphasizes her theme of savagery in the final analysis.
This epic novel stretches on to a century of Teddy’s life as Atkinson circles back in time to grab different points of view. The suppressed inner-workings of this British family are exposed. His mother Sylvie is a passionate woman who favors Teddy of all her children, her “best boy.” I believe I could almost touch his family. His wife, Nancy, is independent and enigmatic; her cordiality is a mystery at times. They have one child, Viola, who is gifted with the best dialogue. She wins the most selfish daughter and mother award, if there were such an award. Her responses are demeaning and nasty to her father and children, particularly her son, Sunny. Both of her children are born on a commune, sired by Viola’s husband, Dominic, possibly a bi-polar, child-like jerk. Viola’s daughter, Moon, serves as the philosopher symbolizing the inability of the family to communicate with each other.
Teddy, despite his love for family, cannot express his thoughts. He actually feels more comfortable as a bomber pilot than returning to the safety of family. His childhood love of nature evolves into a small journalistic job after the War. Atkinson emphasizes the goodness of Teddy and I wonder if he genetically passed on his inability to show emotion. The British stiff upper-lip and all that may not be elusive. Ursula emerges (sister to Teddy and star of Life After Life) when Atkinson wants to provide the reader with some humor and reality.
This novel is incredible, and I have only presented a cursory sample of this sprawling work. Reading Atkinson’s Afterword is somewhat illuminating but left me more in amazement of her intellect. Every scene and piece of dialogue is preparing the reader for the end of the book.
Here is the thing, the chapter early on, called "The Children of Adam", is 27 pages of pure proof positive that Atkinson is a writer of the highest caliber. In this chapter, a character study of Teddy's daughter Viola, who in 1980 has two small children and is living with an "artist" on a commune in Britain, Atkinson captures Viola and her generation, with such wit, such exquisite satire, such spot-on observation, that when I finished the chapter I went back and read it again to savor every perfect word. And even though Atkinson does skewer Viola, she still managed to make me feel for her. I wanted to give her a hug in the end. [There is a lot more of Viola as the story goes on, and I didn't always want to hug her.]
The price of this novel is worth it for those 27 pages of sublime writing alone!
The readers who didn't like the "Groundhog Day" aspect to "LAL" will appreciate the absence of that device. Instead the novel bounces around inside of Teddy's life, often revealing glimpses of the future - a device I loved and that does not in any way lessen the suspense; it's truly another testament to Atkinson's writing talent, that even though I KNEW something was going to happen from the beginning...when I actually read the details I burst into tears on the stationary bike at my gym.
The sections of the novel that describe Teddy's hair-raising experiences as an RAF pilot in WWII are absolutely cinema-graphic! I can vividly imagine these scenes, along with Ursula's experiences during the Blitz from "LAL" being made into a terrific WWII film.
Atkinson's skill at creating characters that both amuse and touch the reader simply awes me. When I finished. I cried. But mostly I rejoiced in this wonderful reading experience. This novel is as much about fiction and creating lives as it is one of Teddy's stories. For doesn't an author create the lives of his/her characters - changing them at will - manipulating the outcomes as much as fate does our own? In one sense this is Atkinson writing lives-after-lives for her characters - one of whom (Izzy) ALSO WRITES BOOKS about a character borrowed from her nephew, Teddy. It is spirals of stories within stories.
A final selfish request: please Ms. Atkinson, write us another about Bertie! I didn't get enough of her warm heart wrapped up and disguised in her remarkable sardonic wit.
If I could give 100 stars, I would.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think I would have liked to have known Teddy and feel sad that he couldn't value the grown up Nancy.Read more