“A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.” Kate Atkinson uses this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson to introduce her second novel featuring the wealthy Todd family, familiar to readers of her previous novel Life After Life.
Life After Life focuses on the many stories of Ursula Todd, who is reborn each time that she dies. In each successive life, Ursula’s decisions and actions follow a different path that winds through many of the most important historical events of the first half of the 20th century, including the London Blitz.
In contrast, A God in Ruins follows a more conventional narrative structure, telling the story of postwar Britain through the eyes of Ursula’s brother Teddy, who serves as a bomber pilot during World War II. Unlike Ursula, Teddy has only one life, which Atkinson follows from his childhood in the 1920s to his decline in the early 2000s.
In Life After Life, Ursula and Teddy are youthful, hopeful – their futures lie before them. In contrast, A God in Ruins presents no alternatives. Life is immutable and decaying – only death lies in the future. Read together, these books are a stunning testament to the cataclysm (and consequences) of World War II – both are must reads.
Read a review of Life After Life.
Availability: USMAI, SMCM, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Book published in 2015