A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson – Book Review

I absolutely loved Kate Atkinson’s brilliant and inventive Life After Life from a few years back, a genre-defying novel that portrayed the many parallel lives of its heroine Ursula Todd in the first half of the 20th century. It also introduced the readers to the rest of the Todd family, among them Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy who becomes a bomber pilot in World War II. In the final “life” of the novel, Teddy gets a miraculous reprieve: presumed dead by everyone, he survives the war and comes back after having spent time as a POW. A God in Ruins takes that ending and runs with it, exploring Teddy’s war as well as his post-war life, a life that he never really expected to have.

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Book Review

life_after_lifeLooking at the title, I presumed that this was going to be a book about the afterlife, something like The Lovely Bones, but in fact its meaning is one life after another. This book doesn’t treat death as final: its protagonist, Ursula Todd, dies when she is born in 1910 with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Then in the next chapter and the next life she gets another chance: the family doctor who originally couldn’t be present because of heavy snowfall makes it to her birth, and cuts the cord in time. A few chapters later, five-year-old Ursula and her sister Pamela drown at sea, then in another life they get rescued by a stranger who happens to be nearby. A year later she falls to her death out of the window while trying to rescue a favourite doll, then she is stopped by the kitchen maid before she climbs the windowsill and lives on.

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