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A god in ruins / Kate Atkinson.

By: Atkinson, Kate [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookSeries: Atkinson, Kate, Todd family: 2.Publisher: London : Doubleday, 2015Copyright date: ©2015Description: 394 p. ; 24 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780385618717 (pbk.); 9780552776646 (Black Swan : pbk.).Subject(s): Veterans -- Fiction | Great Britain -- History -- 20th century -- FictionGenre/Form: Historical fiction.DDC classification: 823/.914 Summary: Kate Atkinson's dazzling Life After Life, the bestselling adult book this year to date in the UK, explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula's beloved younger brother Teddy - would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father - as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have. A God in Ruins is a masterful companion to Life After Life, and will prove once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 COSTA NOVEL AWARD

A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd âe" would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather âe" as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war âe" that great fall of Man from grace âe" and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction. Those who loved the bestselling Life After Life will recognise Teddy as Ursula Toddâe(tm)s adored younger brother âe" but for those who have not read it, A God in Ruins stands fully on its own.

Few will dispute that it proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the most exceptional novelists of our age.

Companion to: Life after life.

Includes bibliographic references.

Kate Atkinson's dazzling Life After Life, the bestselling adult book this year to date in the UK, explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula's beloved younger brother Teddy - would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father - as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have. A God in Ruins is a masterful companion to Life After Life, and will prove once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.

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Excerpt provided by Syndetics

30th March, 1944 The Last Flight Naseby He walked as far as the hedge that signalled the end of the airfield. The beating of the bounds. The men referred to it as his 'daily constitutional' and fretted when he didn't take it. They were superstitious. Everyone was superstitious. Beyond the hedge there were bare fields, ploughed over last autumn. He didn't expect to see the alchemy of spring, to see the dull brown earth change to bright green and then pale gold. A man could count his life in harvests reaped. He had seen enough. They were surrounded by flat farmland. The farmhouse itself stood square and immoveable over to the left. At night a red light shone from its roof to stop them crashing into it. If they flew over it when they were coming into land and they knew they had overshot and were in trouble. From here he could see the farmer's daughter in the yard, feeding the geese. Wasn't there a nursery rhyme in there somewhere? No, he was thinking of the farmer's wife, wasn't he - cutting off tales with a carving knife. A horrid image. Poor mice, he had thought when he was a boy. Still thought the same now that he was a man. Nursery rhymes were brutal affairs. He had never met the farmer's daughter nor did he know her name, but he was  disproportionally fond of her. She always waved them off. Sometimes she was joined by her father, once or twice by her mother, but the girl's presence in the farmyard was a constant for every raid. She caught sight of him now and waved. Rather than return the wave, he saluted her. He imagined she would like that. Of course, from this distance he was just a uniform. She had no idea who he was. Teddy was just one of the many. He whistled for the dog. 1925 Alouette 'See!' he said, 'there - a lark. A skylark.' He glanced up at her and saw that she was looking in the wrong place. 'No, over there,' he said, pointing. She was completely hopeless. 'Oh,' she said at last. 'There, I see it! How queer - what's it doing?' 'Hovering, and then it'll go up again probably.' The skylark soared on its transcendental thread of song. The quivering flight of the bird and the beauty of its music triggered an unexpectedly deep emotion in him. 'Can you hear it?' His aunt cupped a hand to an ear in a theatrical way. She was as out of place as a peacock, wearing an odd hat, red like a pillar-box and stuck with two large pheasant tail-feathers that bobbed around with the slightest movement of her head. He wouldn't be surprised if someone took a shot at her. 'If only,' he thought. Teddy was allowed - allowed himself - barbaric thoughts as long as they remained unvoiced. ('Good manners,' his mother, counselled, was 'the armour that one must don anew every morning.') 'Hear what?' his aunt said eventually. 'The song,' he said, mustering patience. 'The skylark's song. It's stopped now,' he added as she continued to make a show of listening. 'It might begin again.' 'No, it won't, it can't, it's gone. Flown away.' He flapped his arms to demonstrate. Despite the feathers in her hat she clearly knew nothing about birds. Or any animals for that matter. She didn't even possess a cat. She was indifferent to Trixie, their Lurcher, currently nosing her way enthusiastically through the dried-up ditch at the side of the road. Trixie was his most stalwart companion and had been by his side since she was a puppy when she had been so small that she could squeeze through the front door of his sisters' dollhouse. Was he supposed to be educating his aunt, he wondered? Was that why they were here? 'The lark's known for its song,' he said instructively. 'It's beautiful.' It was impossible to instruct on the subject of beauty, of course. It simply was. You were either moved by it or you weren't. His sisters, Pamela and Ursula, were, his elder brother, Maurice, wasn't. His brother, Jimmy, was too young for beauty, his father possibly too old. His father, Hugh, had a gramophone recording of The Lark Ascending which they sometimes listened to on wet Sunday afternoons. It was lovely but not as lovely as the lark itself. 'The purpose of art,' his mother, Sylvie, said - instructed even - 'is to convey the truth of a thing, not to be the truth itself.' Her own father, Teddy's grandfather, had been a famous artist, dead long ago, a relationship that gave his mother authority on the subject of art. And beauty too, Teddy supposed. All these things - Art, Truth, Beauty - had capital letters when his mother spoke about them. 'When the skylark flies high,' he continued, rather hopelessly to Izzie, 'it means it's fine weather.' 'Well, one doesn't need a bird to tell one if it's good weather or not, one simply looks about,' Izzie said. 'And this afternoon is glorious. I adore the sun,' she added, closing her eyes and raising her painted face to the skies. Who didn't, Teddy thought? Not his grandmother perhaps, who led a gloomy drawing-room life in Hampstead, with heavy cotton nets drawn to prevent the light entering the house. Or perhaps to stop the dark escaping. 'The Knights' Code', which he had learned by heart from Scouting for boys, a book he frequently turned to in times of uncertainty, even now in his self-exile from the movement, demanded that 'Chivalry requireth that youth should be trained to perform the most laborious and humble offices with cheerfulness and grace.' He supposed entertaining Izzie was one of those occasions. It was certainly laborious. He shaded his eyes against the sun and scanned the skies for the skylark. It failed to make a reappearance and he had to make do with the aerial manoeuvres of the swallows. He thought of Icarus and wondered what he would have looked like from the ground. Quite big, he supposed. But Icarus was a myth, wasn't he? He was going to boarding school after the summer holidays and he really must start getting his facts in order. 'You will need to be a stoic, old chap,' his father advised. 'It will be a trial, that's the point of it really, I suppose. Best to keep your head below the parapet,' he added. 'Neither sink nor float, just sort of paddle about in the middle.' 'All the men in the family' went to the school, his Hampstead grandmother said (his only grandmother, Sylvie's mother having died long ago), as if it were a law, written down in ancient times. Teddy supposed his own son would have to go there too, although this boy existed in a future that Teddy couldn't even begin to imagine. He didn't need to, of course, for in that future he had no sons, only a daughter, Viola, something which would be a sadness for him although he never spoke of it, certainly not to Viola who would have been volubly affronted. Teddy was taken aback when Izzie unexpectedly started to sing and - more startling - do a little dance. 'Alouette, Alouette, gentille Alouette.' He knew no French to speak of yet and thought she was singing not 'gentille' but 'jaunty', a word he rather liked. 'Do you know that song?' she asked him. 'No.' 'It's from the war. The French soldiers sang it.' The fleeting shadow of something - sorrow, perhaps - passed across her features, but then just as suddenly she said gleefully, 'The lyrics are quite horrible. All about plucking the poor swallow. Its eyes and feathers and legs and so on.' In that inconceivable yet inevitable war still to come - Teddy's war - Alouette was the name of 425 Squadron, the French Canadians. In the February of '44, not long before his last flight, Teddy made a an emergency landing at their base at Tholthorpe, two engines on fire, shot up as they crossed the Channel. The French boys gave his crew brandy, rough stuff that they were nonetheless grateful for. Their squadron badges, something Teddy hadn't known before he met them, showed a swallow above the motto Je te plumerai and he had thought about this day with Izzie. It was a memory that seemed to belong to someone else. Izzie did a pirouette. 'What larks!' she said, laughing. Is this, he wondered, what his father meant when he said Izzie was 'ludicrously unstable'? 'Pardon me?' 'What larks,' Izzie repeated. 'Great Expectations. Haven't you read it?' For a surprising moment she sounded like his mother. 'But, of course, I was making a joke. Because there isn't one any longer. The lark, I mean. Flown orf. Gorn,' she said in a silly Cockney accent. 'I've eaten lark,' she added in an offhand way. 'In Italy. They're considered a delicacy over there. There's not much eating on a lark, of course. No more than a mouthful really.' Teddy shuddered. The idea of the sublime little bird being plucked from the sky, of its exquisite song being interrupted in full flight, was horrible to him. Many, many years later, in the early Seventies, Viola, discovered Emily Dickinson on an American Studies course that was part of her degree. In her scrawly, untamed hand she copied down the first verse of a poem she thought her father would like (too lazy to transcribe the whole of the short poem). 'Split the lark - and you'll find the Music, bulb after bulb in silver rolled'. He was surprised she had thought of him, she rarely did. He supposed literature was one of the few things they held in common even though they rarely, if ever, discussed it. He considered sending her something in return, a poem, even a few choice lines - a means of communicating with her - 'Hail to thee, blythe spirit! Bird though never wert' or 'Hark how the cheerfull birds do chaunt their lays and carol of love's praise' or 'Ethereal Minstrel! Pilgrim of the sky! Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?' (Was there a poet who hadn't written about skylarks?) He supposed his daughter would think he was patronizing her in some way. She had an aversion to learning anything from him, possibly from everyone, and so in the end he simply wrote back, 'Thank you, very thoughtful of you.' Before he could stop himself - the armour of good manners falling away - he said, 'It's disgusting to eat a lark, Aunt Izzie.' 'Why is it disgusting? You eat chicken and so on, don't you? What's the difference, after all?' Izzie had driven an ambulance in the Great War, dead poultry could do little to ruffle her emotions. A world of difference, Teddy thought, although he couldn't help but wonder what a lark would taste like. Thankfully, he was distracted from this thought by Trixie barking extravagantly at something. He bent down to investigate. 'A slow worm,' he said appreciatively to himself, the lark temporarily forgotten. He picked it up gently in both hands and displayed it to Izzie. 'A snake?' she said, grimacing, snakes apparently having no charms for her. 'No, a slow worm,' Teddy said. 'Not a snake. Not a worm either. It's a lizard actually.' Its bronze-gold lustred scales gleamed in the sun. This was beauty too. Was there anything in nature that wasn't? Even a slug demanded a certain salutation, although not from his mother. 'What a funny little boy you are,' Izzie said. Excerpted from A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

The best novels reward readers at every level of engagement, from the casual listener seeking an engrossing audiobook with great characters to others in pursuit of a more intellectual study of structure and craft. Atkinson's latest, a companion to Life After Life, succeeds on all levels. While the two books speak to each other in ways that will entertain fans of both, A God in Ruins, the story of Teddy Todd, an RAF pilot in World War II, stands on its own. The novel presents an epic, kaleidoscopic view of Teddy and his family over the course of nearly a century. A single event is often recalled in several different ways, both from the point of view of different characters and through Teddy's subtly differing perspectives on a single event from the vantage point of multiple stages in his life. The result is a profoundly moving meditation on memory, perception, and time. Atkinson is a master of detail and character, and plot points are revealed skillfully and with purpose. The controversial ending delivers a gut punch that should remind readers what's at stake in war, in real life, and in fiction. Alex Jennings's subtle, affecting performance does Atkinson's powerful novel perfect justice. Verdict A must-listen! A God in Ruins gives fiction lovers reason to proclaim that the demise of the novel has been greatly exaggerated. ["Beautifully written but emotionally withheld; there's more to disappointed lives then just disappointment": LJ 5/15/15 review of the Little, Brown hc.]-Heather Malcolm, Bow, WA © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

The life expectancy of RAF pilots in World War II was notoriously short, with fewer than half surviving the war. But Teddy Todd-the beloved younger brother of Ursula Todd, whose life in all its variations was the subject of Atkinson's Life After Life-beats the odds. Inner peace means resuming a life he never expected to have in a now-diminished England. He has nightmares; a wife he loves, although not necessarily enough or in the right way; and, eventually, a daughter who blames him for her mother's early death and never misses a chance to mention the blood on his hands. As much postwar story as war story, the book is also a depiction of the way past and present mix. Atkinson fans know that she can bend time to her will, and here she effortlessly shifts between Teddy's flying days and his middle and old age, between his grandchildren and their awful mother, and back again. And, as in Life After Life, Atkinson isn't just telling a story: she's deconstructing, taking apart the notion of how we believe stories are told. Using narrative tricks that range from the subtlest sleight of hand to direct address, she makes us feel the power of storytelling not as an intellectual conceit, but as a punch in the gut. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Atkinson calls her latest novel a companion piece to her previous book, Life after Life (2013), which vividly depicted the multiple lives led by Ursula Todd during WWII. This one follows her much-loved younger brother, Teddy. He only leads one life as a husband, father, grandfather, RAF pilot, teacher, and writer, but the ever-inventive Atkinson encompasses many phases of Ted's life within one chapter. At one moment, we are up in the air with him during one of his harrowing bombing raids (The dead are legion), and the next, we are at Teddy's nursing home, where he resides while in his nineties, witnessing his tenderhearted granddaughter reading to him from his favorite Trollope novel, though he can barely hear. Atkinson often revisits the same scene from a different perspective, adding key details, and always, there is her wry humor. She also continues to write, as she did in Life after Life, about the savagery of war in clarion prose that is graphic in detail and possessed of a singular melancholy. And whether it is the stoic Teddy, his practical wife, his unbelievably selfish daughter, or his neglected grandchildren, every one of Atkinson's characters will, at one moment or another, break readers' hearts. Atkinson mixes character, theme, and plot into a rich mix, one that will hold readers in thrall. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Atkinson's legion of fans, both of her Jackson Brodie mysteries and Life after Life, will be eagerly anticipating her latest, which has a 150,000 first printing and will be backed by numerous promotional efforts, including book-club outreach.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2015 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

Fresh from the excellent Life After Life (2013), Atkinson takes another sidelong look at the natures of time and reality in this imaginative novel, her ninth.Transpose Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" to the skies over Europe in World War II, and you'll have some idea of the territory in which Atkinson is working. Ursula Todd, the protagonist of Life After Life, returns, appearing from time to time at just the right moments, in the manner of a chorus. The lead in this story, though, is her brother Teddy, who, having survived both childhood and the air war, is now disillusioned"The whole edifice of civilization turned out to be constructed from an unstable mix of quicksand and imagination"and suffering from more than a little guilt that he lives while so many others do not. If Bierce might be a silent presence in the proceedings, so too might be The Best Years of Our Lives, which treats just that issuesave that we know how things turned out for the players in William Wyler's 1946 film, whereas Atkinson constantly keeps us guessing, the story looping over itself in time ("This was when people still believed in the dependable nature of timea past, a present, a futurethe tenses that Western civilization was constructed on") and presenting numerous possibilities for how Teddy's life might unfold depending on the choices he makes, to say nothing of things well beyond his control. Atkinson's narrative is without some of the showy pyrotechnics of its predecessor. Instead, it quietly, sometimes dolefully looks in on the players as, shell-shocked by a war that has dislocated whole generations and nations, they go about trying to refashion their lives and, of course, regretting things done, not done, and undone as they do. But do we really have just one life, as Ursula insists? It's a point worth pondering. A grown-up, elegant fairy tale, at least of a kind, with a humane vision of people in all their complicated splendor. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.