Kate Atkinson: A God in Ruins


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 twentieth 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.


I really had no expectations heading into this novel. It wasn’t a novel I had personally picked out for myself. It was one of those books that gets passed on once another person is finished with it and you debate whether it is your kind of book, and go from there. Initially, I wasn’t really planning on reading this book. But then it got longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize and it won the Costa Novel Award last year – so I thought I would give it a go.

Now this is my own personal opinion, and what I will say is – it didn’t blow me away. It was mediocre and more of a book that would get you out of a really bad reading slump. It’s slow in pace with no major twists or turns, but quite humble in its portrayal of Teddy Todd and the secondary characters surrounding him. I did love the way in which all the characters were perceived however. They were very three-dimensional, all with their flaws which came across very easily and with no hiccups. And it was nice to see that all the characters, except maybe Teddy Todd himself, overcame some of these flaws or, at worst, embraced them as they grew throughout the novel.

Though this novel is quite sedate, there is a lot of feeling within the narrative and the different strands told. The novel frequently jumps from past and present, with the occasional reference to the future and events we have not witnessed yet which, at first, I found quite confusing until I understood that that was the way in which the novel was going to be told. It became quite heart-warming in a way to find out some information before it happened to the characters and to understand how the past, present, and future were related through their actions. The inclusion of war stories and the ways in which everyone is affected by it was a brilliant implement which helped up those feels as characters came and went. It was nice seeing a WW2 novel that didn’t focus too heavily on the war, but more on the implications to its war heroes afterwards.

With all that has been said, it is not a book I would purposefully pick up again as I did find it a bit too slow and altogether, not my type of book. The ending is full of feels and completely unexpected, but – having reread the synopsis – it is alluded to very subtly.


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