SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 COSTA NOVEL AWARD
A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.
This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction.Those who loved the bestselling Life After Life will recognise Teddy as Ursula Todd's adored younger brother – but for those who have not read it, A God in Ruins stands fully on its own. Few will dispute that it proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the most exceptional novelists of our age.
Caroline Baum's Review
I was a huge fan of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life which explored the different possibilities of how life might turn out for its heroine Ursula, born into an Edwardian family and culminating in the late 1960s. Then my colleague John Purcell raved about the sequel, which focuses on the life of Teddy, Ursula's bomber pilot brother, who was so liked by both author and readers that he earned a book to himself.
Teddy is a good man, kind and thoughtful but circumspect. He is a triumph of Atkinson's imagination, and his sensibility is gloriously nuanced in its private, understated, British diffidence and understatement. Even when he is in the middle of a mission (these are the novel's high point, their airborne perspective neatly mirroring Ursula's climactic London Blitz scenes in the earlier novel) he keeps his cool and thinks of his crew more than himself.
Atkinson's ability to describe the experience of being an airman in Bomber Command is nothing short of dazzling: she brings a nobility to it that I found very moving. This makes the novel a marvellous tribute to the quiet courage of men whose names we have forgotten who went out over and over, against the odds, following orders. But Teddy's inner life is tremendously rich, painted with plausibility and delicacy as both husband and father. He is a hard character to forget. So good to see this win the UK's Costa Prize for fiction, as it deserves.
"Triumphant...such a dazzling read...Atkinson gives Teddy's wartime experiences the full treatment in a series of thrilling set pieces. Even more impressive,though, is her ability to invest the more everday events with a similar grandeur...almost as innovative as Atkinson's technique in Life After Life - a possibly more authentic as an expression of how it feels to be alive...it ends on one of the most devastating twists in recent fiction...it adds a further level of overwhelming poignancy to an already extraordinarily affecting book." -- James Walton Daily Telegraph "This is a novel about war and the shadow it casts even over generations who have never known it, but it is also a novel about fiction...this is a novel that cares deeply about its characters and about the purpose of fiction in making sense of our collective past. A God in Ruins, together with its predecessor, is Atkinson's finest work, and confirmation that her genre-defying writing continues to surpise and dazzle." -- Stephanie Merritt Observer "With A God in Ruins she, once again, proves herself to be a writer of considerable talent. Her command of structure is extraordinary...She writes with terrific compassion for her characters...also shows off a brilliantly brittle sense of humour that on several occasions made me laugh out loud...to my mind, A God in Ruins stands as an equally magnificent achievement." -- Matt Cain Independent on Sunday "Horribly funny...every page has some vividly original phrase...But the tour de force is her treatment of Teddy's experience as a bomber pilot, recreated as memorably as the Blitz scenes in Life After Life... nothing can quite account for the imaginative leaps she has made...nailbiting...a really affecting memorial to the huge numbers of bomber crew who died." Standard "Better than most fiction you'll read this year...Atkinson's prose is as bright as gunfire in the Second World War sections...I can't think of any writer to match her ability to grasp a period in the past. No, not even you, Booker-winning Hilary Mantel." The Times