“He walked as far as the hedge that signalled the end of the airfield.”
Kate Atkinson has stated that she thinks of this as a ‘companion piece’ to Life After Life, and perhaps one of the untold episodes from Ursula’s many lives. This time, the story follows Teddy, Ursula’s beloved, youngest brother. And in contrast to the earlier work, Teddy only has one life (in this book, at least), but the narrative skips back and forth in his timeline, often within the same paragraph!
If you’ve read the earlier work, you might remember that Teddy joins the RAF during the (Second World) war, and meets different fates (good and bad) in Ursula’s various attempts at life. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that he survives here, as much of the book is set in his old age. In fact, (one of) the theme(s) of the book is about the treatment of the elderly, and is particularly poignant when we’ve previously followed Teddy through childhood and as a vigorous young man.
Much as I admire the book, and was rushing home to sit and read more of it, I have to admit that I found it kind of depressing. Life After Life was, for me, a huge tale of hope; conversely, A God in Ruins seemed to me to be about the futility of life. Not the cheeriest of reads, but still a very good and thought-provoking one.
Hardback: 394 pages / 16 chapters
Series: The Todd Family book 2 (sequel to Life After Life)
First published: 2015
Read from 12th-25th November 2015
My rating: 7/10