Author Kate Atkinson has so many strengths as a writer but one must surely be the way she creates such memorable characters. It must be almost twenty years since I read her first book, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and that characters within in still live in my mind.
A God in Ruins is no exception. In this book, we follow the life of Teddy – from when he is a small boy until the day he dies as an old, old man – and he and his family will stay with you. You’ll have to trust me when I say ‘he dies as an old, old man’ is slightly misleading but to say more would be a spoiler.
The book begins in 1925 when Teddy is just a small boy. And throughout A God In Ruins Kate Atkinson moved between the past and the present at unexpected times – but absolutely flawlessly as we follow Teddy growing up to find himself in the Second World War when he becomes a hero pilot, flying a cumbersome but deadly Halifax bomber.
While his much loved sister Ursula is working in London during the Blitz digging people – mostly dead – out of their homes that have been bombed by the Germans, Teddy is flying over Germany inflicting the same sort of damage to the German population.
Maybe in common with most aircrew in those terrible days, Teddy doesn’t think about the future – he’s hardly convinced that he will actually have one – so is surprised to find that he does. Marrying his childhood sweetheart he has a daughter Viola who is also one of the finest characters in fiction today, as is her daughter, named Moon Roberta by her then-hippy mother.
As Teddy grows older, becomes a widower, becomes a grandfather, he has to deal with the future he never expected to have.
This book isn’t at all as gloomy as I’ve probably made it sound – it definitely has its laugh-out-loud moments – but it also will make you see the events of the twentieth century in a different light and furthermore, it’s a hugely entertaining saga. Highly recommended.
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