If the best recommendation for a novel is that, once you finish it, you want to start reading it all over again, then this is my recommendation for A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. The story of Teddy Todd reeled me in until I was reading late into the night.
Teddy is brother to Ursula Todd, who featured in Atkinson’s Life after Life, but this is not a sequel. More a companion piece, one book informs the other but stands up fully on its own. Read either first, it doesn’t matter. This is a book about war – the Second World War, the daily grind of Teddy’s life as a bomber pilot – and the effect this experience has on the rest of his life. War doesn’t happen and then go away, it colours lives and affects them until death, mostly unnoticed or misunderstood by relatives. And so we see Teddy’s life, told in a chopped up manner with excerpts from his childhood, war, early marriage and fatherhood, and as a much-loved grandfather. I don’t think I’m giving much away here to say he survives the war, but Atkinson’s descriptions of his bomber sorties are realistic, we feel the cold, the fear, the near-misses, the camaraderie, the determination and discomfort. Reading the bibliography at the back of the book, her research was thorough but it never shouts out from the page. Details are included because they are important to Teddy’s life, not because they happened.
Kate Atkinson remains a ‘go to’ author for me, I buy every book she writes.
If you like A God in Ruins, try:-
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook
The Cazalet Chronicles’ by Elizabeth Jane Howard, starting with the first book The Light Years
After the Bombing by Clare Morrall
‘A God in Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson [UK: Black Swan] Buy now
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