I had mixed feelings about this one when it was chosen a couple of months ago for one of my book clubs. I had not really enjoyed Life After Life (review here) finding it overly repetitive, occasionally confusing and, ultimately, too too depressing. Although this is its ‘companion piece’ (in Atkinson’s own words) I had been told this was very different so I decided to give it a go.
A God in Ruins focusses on Teddy, the younger brother of Life After Life’s Ursula. There isn’t exactly a ‘plot’ to speak of as it jumps backwards and forwards in time, telling the story of Teddy’s experiences as a Halifax Bomber pilot during the Second World War and his relationships with his wife (much loved but possibly not ‘in love with’), daughter (obnoxious and difficult but carrying the burden of a terrible memory) and grandchildren (one good and well-adjusted, the other dreadfully scarred by his awful parents).
I can not tell you how relieved I am to say that I loved this book. I thought the fragmented, time-hopping narrative leaving bread-crumbs and hints of what has happened and what is still to occur was very clever and a real delight to read. Teddy is a hugely three-dimensional and sympathetic character (the opposite of Ursula for me in the first book) and his daughter Viola often hilariously horrible though perhaps, you discover, she has some justification. Its moving and dramatic and completely gripping. I know others were disappointed or angered by the ending but for me it was the icing on the cake.