“One’s own life seemed puny against the background of so much history.”
My TBR list is so, so long, but after seeing that my local library had this in, I had to get it ASAP while all the details of Life After Life were still fresh in my mind. This is marketed as a “companion book” to the former. While Life After Life focuses on the very special Ursula, A God in Ruins tracks the life of her younger brother, Teddy Todd, as well as his wife (Nancy), daughter (Viola), and grandchildren (nicknamed “Sunny” and “Bertie”). While Ursula and the rest of the Todds do reappear occasionally I understand why it is a companion rather than a direct sequel since Teddy really is the focus here. Much of the book deals with Teddy’s time spent as a fighter pilot during WWII and how his wartime experiences affect his view of life and his relationships upon his return. In particular his daughter Viola is very difficult and struggles with both the daughter and mother role. It was interesting to examine her personality as contrasted with Teddy’s and how her own children compare and contrast to them both.
All in all, this book did not shine for me the way that Life After Life did. I am giving A God in Ruins 3 stars. My issues are only with the actual story and plot and not the writing. Atkinson’s descriptions of the war are always, as they were in Life After Life, extremely poignant and detailed. However, the magic that I felt she captured through Ursula’s uniqueness in the former book just wasn’t present for me here and a lot of the time I felt like I was reading just any other wartime historical fiction or, in the parts of the story describing Teddy’s family and occurring in the present day, just contemporary fiction with all the usual family drama. It doesn’t change the fact that Atkinson is a great, intelligent writer who is really gifted at crafting these stories, but I wanted more. The “twist” ending disappointed me as well and I felt like even if that was her one little attempt at the same device used previously, it was not necessary in this book.