“A handful of heartbeats. That was what life was. A heartbeat followed by a heartbeat. A breath followed by a breath. One moment followed by another moment and then there was a last moment. Life was a s fragile as a bird’s heartbeat, fleeting as the bluebells in the wood.”
~ A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
On January first I began this year’s reading adventure. I brewed a pot of coffee, helped myself to a pumpkin spice biscotti, plugged in my electric blanket and settled in with Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins. I envisioned a winter holiday binge reading of this book, but I didn’t finish this novel until February 24th. 50% of my slow reading pace was because I began this book the week I started graduate school and a solid 40% was due to a family member’s extended illness. A 10% chunk of my slower than molasses reading was due to this book hitting me emotionally in a way I had not expected.
This companion novel to Life After Life follows Ursula’s brother, Teddy, through his time in World War II, his courtship and marriage to Nancy, his dealings with his obnoxiously selfish daughter, Violet, and his special relationship with his grandchildren.
While Life After Life is magical realism throughout, A God in Ruins is a much quieter book, but reflects on many of the same things: the horror of war and loss, loneliness, and how little we are able to really read the people we love. I cannot say much else without ruining the book as there is a twist and turn here and there. I think Life After Life is a finer novel and more of a page turner, but I keep this book close to my heart as well. I sobbed through the last 20 pages of the novel because it reminded me of my grandfather dying last July. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and I hadn’t expected that.
If you enjoy WWII historical novels with quality character development and introspective and lovely writing, then this is a book for you. While Atkinson has stated that this is more of a companion to Life After Life rather than a sequel, I certainly think you should read Life After Life first.