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A God in Ruins: A Novel (Todd Family) Hardcover – May 5, 2015
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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
About the Author
Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was named England's Whitbread Book of the Year in 1996. Since then, she has written eight more ground-breaking, bestselling books, most recently Life After Life. She lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Top customer reviews
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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.
The story takes place within various time periods that are interspersed throughout the novel quite fragmentally from 1925 to 2012. Although Atkinson admits to not being a historian, she does a good job to provide a part of British history during the second world war and interprets its symbolic importance through fiction and character Royal Air Force (RAF) Halifax bomber pilot Teddy, a central figure in the novel and metaphorically provides the birds-eye view of the war experience and one who survived it. There is no contest that philosophical and religious connotations emerge throughout the story much similar to a stream of though because of how Teddy’s memory and story is not told as a straight narrative; flashbacks disperse throughout each chapter and at times where the reader must focus in order to understand what is happening next. But as one focuses on the characters and their dilemmas and encounters, major themes arise such as rites of passages, age of innocence and traditional values, especially for Teddy who as a young man had dreams to be a wordsmith and write poetry and earn a Masters in Philosophy after attending Oxford. However, things changed within a blink of an eye, the war turned everything around and great expectations were left behind, “the future was a cage closing around him. Wasn’t life itself a great trip, its jaws waiting to snap” (119)?
A God in Ruins may be the type of novel that may need to be read more than once. Especially, consider why Atkinson included the short insert “The Adventures of Augustus – The Awful Consequences” by Delphie Fox twice, once in the beginning and second at the end of the novel. Of the many themes that are a part of the book two stand out, man’s encounters with morality and mortality and the effects of the war experience. One other footnote, the story has a slight similarity to the film 1947 film “Stairway to Heaven” that starred David Niven as a RAF pilot and Kim Hunter and the element of time and space continuum. But add other elements that extend within universal and religious lines and a post-modern world as told through literature.
Most recent customer reviews
I almost did not read this b/c of having my fill of WWII books as a teen. But I adore Kate Atkinson’s writing so I went for it.Read more