Summary and book reviews of A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins

A Todd Family Novel

by Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson X
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
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  • First Published:
    May 2015, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

The stunning companion to Kate Atkinson's #1 bestseller Life After Life, "one of the best novels I've read this century" (Gillian Flynn).

"He had been reconciled to death during the war and then suddenly the war was over and there was a next day and a next day. Part of him never adjusted to having a future."

Kate Atkinson's dazzling Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances and the power of choices, following Ursula Todd as she lived through the turbulent events of the last century over and over again.

A God in Ruins tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula's beloved younger brother Teddy - would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather - as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have.

An ingenious and moving exploration of one ordinary man's path through extraordinary times, A God in Ruins proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.

1925
Alouette

"See!" he said. "There— a lark. A skylark." He glanced up at her and saw that she was looking in the wrong place. "No, over there," he said, pointing. She was completely hopeless.

"Oh," she said at last. "There, I see it! How queer— what's it doing?"

"Hovering, and then it'll go up again probably." The skylark soared on its transcendental thread of song. The quivering flight of the bird and the beauty of its music triggered an unexpectedly deep emotion in him. "Can you hear it?"

His aunt cupped a hand to an ear in a theatrical way. She was as out of place as a peacock, wearing an odd hat, red like a pillar-box and stuck with two large pheasant tail-feathers that bobbed around with the slightest movement of her head. He wouldn't be surprised if someone took a shot at her. If only, he thought. Teddy was allowed— allowed himself— barbaric thoughts as long as they remained unvoiced. ("Good manners," his mother counselled, were "the armour...

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    Costa Book Awards
    2015

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Atkinson's A God in Ruins is simultaneously a story of one man's harrowing journey through war, a family's journey through the twentieth century, and every person's journey through mistakes and shortcomings toward something resembling redemption, no matter how imperfect...continued

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

The Bookseller (UK)
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.

Marie Claire (UK)
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.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.

Booklist
Starred Review. Atkinson mixes character, theme, and plot into a rich mix, one that will hold readers in thrall.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A grown-up, elegant fairy tale, at least of a kind, with a humane vision of people in all their complicated splendor.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

Another brilliant Atkinson novel!
A God in Ruins is a book of the Todd Family by award-winning British author, Kate Atkinson. Teddy Todd: younger brother of Ursula, favourite son of Sylvie, model for his Aunt Izzie’s best-selling books, the young man whose life was cut short when he ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Skylark

SkylarkImages of birds abound in Kate Atkinson's new novel, A God in Ruins - surprising, perhaps, even the author herself: "Just don't ask me why there are so many geese. I have absolutely no idea," she writes in her afterword. Most indelible, though, is the image of the skylark, which Atkinson includes near the book's opening, as a young Teddy walks through the countryside with his aunt. "The quivering flight of the bird and the beauty of its music triggered an unexpectedly deep emotion" in the boy, Atkinson writes.

Atkinson is certainly not the first writer to find beauty - and metaphoric urgency - in the skylark's flight and song ("Was there a poet who hadn't written about skylarks?" Teddy wonders). Despite its relatively drab coloration,...

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