A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson

This writer, Kate Atkinson, just keeps getting better and better. Every novel she has had published I have read and enjoyed enormously. And she has done it all again with 'Life After Life' which I read exactly a year ago, and now this companion story to that one. 'Life After Life' told the what-if story of Ursula, born in England between the two great wars, and how her life unfolded or may have unfolded depending on if she took the left fork in the road or the right fork. This very clever and slick way of telling the story however does not detract from what the novel was acutally about - the appallingness of war on ordinary people, and in the case of the English ordinary person, the incredible stoicism/stiff upper lip/just get on with living attitude that prevailed.

The author continues this theme in this latest novel, which is primarily about Teddy, Ursula's younger brother, who becomes a Lancaster bomber pilot during the war, and then after it seeks to escape the merest suggestion of excitement by trying to live the quiet life. He marries his childhood sweetheart, Nancy, they have one child, the truly awful Viola, and she in turn has two children, Sunny and Bertie. I mention their names because as characters they have just as much of a story to tell as Teddy, and as the novel is about Teddy and his family, including his parents and siblings, really they should all be mentioned.

The story moves effortlessly between the years of Teddy's long life, with a number of different narrators as Teddy's life unfolds. As with Ursula's story, it is very clever narrative technique, and never once feels like it is losing itself. But the true marvel of this book is the writing about the war of a bomber pilot - essentially that every time you go flying you probably won't come back. The bibliography at the back of the book gives you an indication of the depth of knowledge the author has brought to her writing and the tragic waste of all life that occurs in wartime. The peacetime though, for many is no easier, and the reverence and grace with which Teddy's post war life is told is almost overwhelming.

I loved this very much, I didn't want it to end. If you haven't already done so, read 'Life After Life' first, then this one. Together they are just wonderful.  

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