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Non 1001 Book Review: A God in Ruins Kate Atkinson


The Guardian calls A God in Ruins Kate Atkinson’s finest work. Book Worm recently read it after loving Life After Life. Keep reading to see if she agrees with the Guardian’s assessment.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Published in: 2015
Literary Awards: Costa Book Award for Novel
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: A God in Ruins

Synopsis from Goodreads: In Life After Life 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.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: Having read and adored Life After Life I was expecting more of the same magic and I was sadly disappointed. While Ursula’s life and choices blew me away, Teddy’s story felt mediocre. Yes it is well written and historically interesting, but for me it was just not the same as the previous book. Teddy comes across as dull and his daughter is just horrible. While I wasn’t expecting Teddy to share Ursula’s gift, I did expect him to be vaguely aware of something out of place in the background of his life.

In her author notes Atkinson says this is a companion novel and not a sequel and that she has chosen to tell one version of the life Teddy could live and to concentrate on that one version. She has done that and it reads as a family saga rather than the magical tale of second chances and redemption that characterized my love for Life After Life. There is a moment at the end of the book that nearly lifted it up for me, but it just comes too late.

I really wanted to love this book and hate the fact that I just couldn’t love it.

So who would like this book? If you loved Life After Life like me you will have to read this just to know what happens. However, you should be prepared for a totally different book. Readers with an interest in WWII and particularly the bombing raids over Germany should enjoy this. This was a family saga that follows one family down through 3 generations therefore should appeal to those who enjoy family sagas within a historical fiction context.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: A God in Ruins

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you disagree with me? Why or why not?

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. I haven’t read this yet. I remember picking up her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum and being totally unprepared for how magical it felt. I was disappointed in the ending but that didn’t dim my love of the book. Have you read that one? How does this compare?


    May 24, 2016
    • I haven’t read it. Book Worm- have you read it? The only book I’ve read by her was Life after Life which I liked but less so than many other people


      May 24, 2016
    • Book Worm #

      I have not read this either but I have heard good things about it and plan to read at some point


      May 25, 2016
    • Behind the Scenes at the Museum is the only other one by her I’ve read so far. I loved it and because of that love, Life After Life disappointed me. I thought Life After Life seemed self-conscious about its own cleverness, and I didn’t warm to any of the characters. I have A God in Ruins on my TBR, and it was one of my picks for March Madness, so I will read it, but I’ve lowered my expectations.

      My sister loves Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie/Case History novels, so I’ll also try those. I trust her judgement, we have similar taste in books.

      Liked by 2 people

      May 25, 2016
  2. Gail #

    I just finished God in Ruins after reading LIfe after Life. I completely agree with Book Worm’s review. Although Life after Life leans heavily on a artificially “clever” construct, I was in love with the characters and the magic and transported by the underlying thought of multiple life potentials. Plus, I learned more about the London bombings than I had by reading any non-fiction books. In God in Ruins, all the potential is slowly drained away. I have read all the Jackson Brodie books. I guess I need to read Behind the Scenes at the Museum.


    May 27, 2016
  3. Gail #

    Yes, I did like the Jackson Brodie books. You need to come to them with some patience but they definitely are deliver overall.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 27, 2016

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