"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, March 21, 2016

A God in Ruins

TITLE: A God in Ruins
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson

The first thing I think after finishing one of Kate Atkinson's books is "When is her next book?" I finished this one last night and it's still in my head, almost a part of me. That's what I love about Atkinson's writing: her indelible, almost real characters and her amazing prose that get under my skin and take up residence there. Her characters become part of me, no more so than the Todd family, the focus of two of her books. In Life After Life, Atkinson presented us with Ursula Todd, born in the 1910s, and her family as Ursula lived her life over and over in various permutations, some where she didn't survive childbirth and others were she lived well into adulthood.

This book focuses on younger brother Teddy. In many of Ursula's lives, Teddy didn't survive his exploits as a bomber pilot during WWII. In this book, we encounter a Teddy who did survive, as a POW in a German prison camp. This is a Teddy who married his childhood sweetheart, who had a daughter Viola he never understood and two grandchildren he adored. This is a Teddy who wants to live a simple life, loving his family, loving nature, and being kind to those he meets.

Told non-linearly, the narrative brings us into the cockpit with Teddy on his and his crews' bombing missions, as well as his life before and after the war. The book is about life and death, the cost of war, the choices we make, and the meaning of it all, and probably even more that I haven't quite processed yet, because that's the kind of writer Atkinson is. As with her other books, there are family secrets and how they can affect the lives of the family members, especially the children. There's much about how we treat each other, especially the old and dying. Atkinson packs so much emotion and philosophy into her books and this one is no exception. I cried, not at the twist at the end, but at what came just before. Any author who can bring me to tears (which I admit isn't all that difficult to do as I'm a crier) over characters who really just live in words on a page is someone special to me.