A God in Ruins is the unofficial sequel to author Kate Atkinson’s dazzling bestseller, Life after Life. This is a fascinating 2013 novel that begins by introducing the Todd’s family, whose lives have various impacts from events that occurred around the time of the World Wars.
If you have read Life after Life, you should not expect the same glamorous twists and turns of main character Ursula Todd’s story, from A God in Ruins. The characters in this book are either diminished in spirit or dejected by hope and ambition.
The ‘God’ that is mentioned in the title is none other than Teddy Todd himself, a saintly man who has by some miracle survived a siege that went on for 70 bombings over Germany in the Second World War. The book is divided into a timeline. First we have Teddy’s exploits – we get to know his wife and their somewhat sour and unlikeable daughter Viola. Then we have Teddy’s life as a widower. Finally, the plots jumps to the 80s where Viola is raising her children, Sunny and Bertie, with, surprise surprise, an unstable man named Dominic.
A God in Ruins is not a war story per se. The narrative leans more towards the impact decisions and actions have on more than one life. Throughout the book, the characters contemplate how things might be different if they had chosen to do this or that at a particular time in their lives.
The best thing about the book is that you will be plucked from an era of war pilot glory to a completely different one where hippies were diggin it. Overall, it is an interesting read. A God in Ruins is a book that makes you think.