Fans of Atkinson’s mind-blowing Life After Life have been waiting for this latest novel, A God in Ruins, which serves as something of a companion-piece—not a sequel—to the earlier book. While Life After Life recounted the story of Ursula Todd, A God in Ruins examines the life of her brother Teddy.
Edward Todd, known by all as Teddy, was born in 1914 to a good British family. A nice boy who became a nice man, he married the girl next door and served with some distinction as a bomber commander in World War II. He loved nature and his dog, his wife, their daughter, and their daughter’s two children. He lived a long life. That, from the outside, is the sum of his life, what most people would deem an ordinary life.
But nothing is ordinary in Kate Atkinson’s hands. The amount of detail the author gives us about Teddy’s life—especially his post-war years, all shaped by the war—brings us not just into Teddy’s mind but into his heart, and we are reminded that perhaps there is no such thing as an ordinary life.
Atkinson is a master storyteller with a remarkable command of pacing and tone. Despite the seriousness at the heart of the novel, there are elements of playfulness throughout. At one point, for example, we learn of Teddy’s daughter Viola that “She felt a sudden spark of sympathy for him and stamped on it.” And when Teddy’s granddaughter Bertie attends a conference, she reflects on the person on stage: “The man who was speaking had a degree in jargon and a doctorate in nonsense. His words were floating in the air, language devoid of meaning, sucking out the oxygen, making Bertie feel mildly hypoxic.”
A God in Ruins contains no “language devoid of meaning.”
Click here for my review of: Life After Life.