A God in Ruins by Kate Aktkinson

We welcomed newcomer Louise to our meeting this week, when we talked about Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, described as a companion piece to her earlier book, Life after Life. Be warned, this post does contain spoilers all the way thru!

Like Life after Life, this book was written in an unusual way – in this case, the narrative continually jumped not just backwards and forwards in time, but swopped points of view too, mostly Teddy’s, but also those of his daughter Viola and grandchildren Sonny and Bertie.  This very much divided the group – some enjoyed the challenge it presented, others were simply annoyed by it.

Where I think we had pretty much unanimous agreement was over the details of Teddy’s wartime role in the bombing campaign over Germany.  Several members said that normally this might have been something they would have been tempted to skim over, but the way that Atkinson so skilfully interwove the technical details and stats with the experience of the bomber crews themselves had us all absolutely hooked, fascinated and horrified in equal measures.

We also generally agreed that it was a well written, and very well crafted book, which many of us found an easy and very engaging read.  We talked quite a bit about the main characters, Teddy especially of course, but also his grandchildren, and his daughter Viola.  We struggled to understand why Viola was quite such an awful person, and most felt that her mother’s early death, and Teddy’s role in it, were not enough reasons for it, altho some were pleased, even relieved, by her apparent redemption by the end.

And so we came to the end of the book, and a revelation which for some (tho not all) turned the rest of the book on its head, to a very mixed response – some appreciated it, and others very much did not.  Some felt it was emotional trickery and manipulative, others found it thought-provoking – about history as fiction, fiction as history, and most of all, about the power of the 60 million lives, lost through the war, which were not lived.  Our 1-5 star-ratings were rather mixed on this book, but overall it came out with 3.9.

Next month’s book is quite a departure for us – Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously, his account of his “expedition through literature: classic, cult and everything in between”.  See you on 11th May.




Meetings take place on the second Wednesday of the month from 7.30pm until 9pm with reader in residence Cathy McCracken.

We meet in the Windsor Hotel on South Parade, Whitley Bay. Come into Reception and go through the double doors in front of you, then turn left and follow signs to the Conference Room.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit www.newwritingnorth.com/submit/join-whitley-bay-book-group/


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