Friday, 11 November 2016

A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson

Today is Armistice Day, when at the 11th day of the 11th month we remember those whose lives were cut short in WW1 (and  also now WW2).  Every year, a group of bookie friends and I choose to read a "Remembrance Read" in November.  A book either set just before, during, or just after either of those two wars.  I lost no-one at all in either war, but my father lost his only cousin and best friend, a pilot in the first world war.  It doesn't mean that I don't think about all losses of wars - losses on both sides, whatever the cause and the uniform. For whoever they were, they were someones.  A son, a wife, a father, an uncle, a lover, a daughter.

This year I have just finished a book which I was recommended by a friend.  It is A God in Ruins and the title comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson -  A man is a god in ruins.  When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.  
 This is a book that has a certain style.  If you do not like a story that jumps about in time, you may not like this one.  I loved it.  We follow the life of Edward (Teddy) Todd, a bomber pilot in WW2, from his childhood onwards - but not in a straight line.  We read, and we wait for that life to unfold, which it does, together with revealing chapters detailing his RAF career in WW2.  His whole life, his family his successes and (mostly) failuresThose he loves, those who love him.  We go back and fore in Teddy's life and in the lives of those he touches Descriptions of bombing raids  are horrific, as are those of coming home, planes on fire, wheels locked up and rear gunners trapped with no escape.  Don't be put off by this.  Life is real and so is war.

It is rare that I call a book magnificent.  This is one of them.   This is a companion to her earlier title, Life After Life - the story of Ursula, Teddy's sister.  I have not read that, and I probably won't (only because there are just too many books on my shelves), but even the author says that it is not necessary to read Ursula's story first, or at all. Whatever you decide, I can recommend this one.