This is a "companion" book to Life After Life, the story of Ursula Todd who was born and died on a stormy night in 1910, and was born and survived and died, and was born again and again... It was one of my favourite reads of 2013 and 2015 when I had to read it again for my book group, and I wouldn't mind reading it once more for another book group either. So I was really looking forward to A God in Ruins, the story of Ursula's favourite brother Teddy, a bomber pilot, who died on a raid in some of her lives, and survived in others.
It's impssible to talk about the plot, it would just give too much away, (though Kate Atkinson doesn't hesitate to litter the narrative with her own spoilers!) . As ever Kate Atkinson's writing is wonderful, she drops in little observations such as Sunny's flatmates were too self-absorbed to ever become his friends, pithy and to the point, the plot zings all over the place in her trademark fashion (I have no problems with narratives like this, though I know a lot of people do), the characters are mostly well drawn, but I have to admit that this book was a slog - the first of her books when I haven't been desperate to pick it up again to read just a few more pages.
Part of the problem is Teddy; he's good, brave, conscientious, long-suffering - and dull. While you can't help liking him and sympathising with him he just doesn't have that spark that grabs your imagination, and goodness is a lot of the book downbeat. Nearly everyone is disappointed in some way or fails to reach their full potential or sucessfully self-destructs. And just as you think that things are turning out well for some people...
Kate Atkinson has described this and Life After Life as her wartime novels. Teddy's wartime experiences are very well drawn but I didn't get involved with him when he was on his missions - I'm not sure if this was because I already knew that he was going to survive and become a writer of nature notes in the local paper so the tension wasn't there or if I just didn't care about him enough. (If you really want to get under the skin of a bomber pilot read Robert Radcliffe's Under an English Heaven, which is superb).
I did finish it, I enjoyed parts of it a lot, I'm glad I read it, but it isn't one I'd want to read again;
This is the fourth book in Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series. As with other Kate Atkinson books belief has to be suspended to a certain extent and once again with other books in this series if you are looking for a hard hitting crime book this one will not be for you.
I found Jackson Brodie as likable a character in this book as I have in other books in the series. He is not a particularly strong or dominant character, he seems to bumble along and deal with things as they happen to him rather than take charge of a situation. I always think of him as a kind fair man if a little muddled in his thinking from time to time.
Once again I did not really guess exactly what had happened until near the very end of the book which I think is always a good sign in any crime fiction. I also came to care about the possible outcome for Tracey and Courtney as Tracey especially really endeared herself as the book progressed. I always find that the strongest aspect of any Kate Atkinson book whether it be one of The Jackson Brodie series or one of her stand alone books is the strength of her characters. This book is no exception.
As with other Kate Atkinson books both the time line and the story teller jumped about a fair bit but as I have read a number of books by this author now I was fully prepared for this. All her books seem to follow a similar pattern. I can understand how some readers may find this a bit predictable but as I really read her books for their characters and entertainment value I have never found that this aspect of her writing has ever bothered me.
A nice, easy and entertaining read full of real characters. A perfect book to read between more demanding reading.
"What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?"
Kate Atkinson is a consumate stylist and superb writer and could make the telephone directory interesting, in this book she's created a storyline that stays with you long after you've finished it and with quite a few unanswered questions too. Some people might find this deeply annoying, I didn't.
The book's faults? One or two of Ursula's lives are described at too much length and the scenes in Germany with Hitler don't seem to have the same conviction as other parts of the books. But all that's minor compared to what is so very good about Life After Life; the scene setting, the story telling, the sense of place, Ursula's growth during each of her lives and the development of her sense of deja vu so she start trying to actively change things - not always with success, the sly humour and the writing which is superb.
One thing though, Ursula's lives flip about a bit and I looked back once or twice to check where I was. I have a feeling this would be an extremely frustrating book to read on a Kindle.
I have just finished reading this book and wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. The charachters were so synpathetically written and well rounded, you just could'nt help liking and feeling for them. The "plot" moved at a good pace and I felt that K. Atkinson handeled the mix of tradedy and comedy really beautifully. One minuite I was smiling at descriptions of charachter foibles etc. and the next I had a tear in my eye for the heartbreak they had gone and were going through.
At no stage did the story drag and everything was written(including the ending) with a quirky touch that was a pleasure to read. Mr. Jackson Brodie is a charechter ro remember and this book is to be highly recommended. (In my opinion!)
One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson
This book is that rare thing: a well written novel with good characters and a pacy plot that is sustained throughout. Subtitled 'A Jolly Murder Mystery', the book is set in Edinburgh during the Festival and starts with a violent road rage attack. The story then follows some of the witnesses to the attack, one of whom is Jackson Brodie, a character we first met in Atkinson's last novel Case Histories.
Through a series of wonderfully ridiculous co-incidences the story twists and turns until the climax. It's a silly story and totally unbelievable but the characters are likeable (or hateable!) and the quality of the writing means that you can follow the plot without trying to remember who was who and who did what. Highly recommended as a well above average beach read or filler for a wet weekend.