Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson

The main character may be Teddy Todd, but this is pretty much a family saga, told in no particular order.  The book covers Teddy’s life from start to finish but meanders all over the place as far as the time sequence.  The gimmick of the day at one time was stream of consciousness, but now many novelists seem to shuffle the events in the story into a random order.  Sometimes the author has an obvious purpose in revealing what ultimately happens and then enlightening us later about prior events, but in this case I felt like the popping back and forth was just for the sake of variety.   A large portion of the book is devoted to Teddy’s experiences as a RAF fighter pilot during WWII, and I found those sections to be crammed with too much detail.  The author may have intended those sections to be the heart of the novel, but, frankly, other WWII novels have moved me more than this one did.  Teddy’s life after the war is fairly mundane—marrying his childhood sweetheart and raising a daughter who then abandons her children in order to pursue political causes.  Teddy’s grandchildren then refuse to spend time with their mother after they become adults—sort of like the son in Harry Chapin’s song “Cat’s in the Cradle.”  The ending to this novel is the most memorable part, and I reread it several times, just because I was so stunned.  I thought the ending was very similar to another WWII novel that I didn’t really like and that I won’t mention by name, because it would give too much away.  The author is obviously trying to make a point with the ending, and I get it, but I don’t think it’s completely effective.  What exactly was the point of Teddy’s life after the war?  I think he always felt that being a fighter pilot was what he was meant to do, and everything after that was fairly ordinary, in the greater scheme of things.   Maybe raising his grandchildren gave him some feeling of worth later on, but he harbored a lot of guilt for having sent his grandson to live with the boy’s horrible paternal grandparents for a while.  Other than that, Terry’s accomplishments after the war are not remarkable or particularly worth reading about.  I do love Kate Atkinson’s writing style, but it just wasn’t enough for me here.  

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