“A companion piece to Life After Life”



As a big fan of Life After Life, I was eager to read what the author had labeled a companion book, God in Ruins. It is a companion book and even though it could stand alone, I think the enjoyment of this read is heightened by having read Life After Life.

The World War II setting returns but it is extended to the present day. This book centers on Teddy, Ursula’s beloved younger brother. The book is not written in the same way, it does not change an outcome and then go back and tell the story a different way for a different outcome.

In the book we follow Teddy from a young boy to the nursing home but not sequentially, rather by an in and out of different years or events in Teddy’s life. So the cradle to grave is a circle that we jump in and out of. Exciting, mundane, dramatic and sad.

Definitely the two books together are a thought provoking look at a powerfully emotional time in history and at the destruction that such a time brings to everyone who lives through it and beyond.


Reviewed by:

Kathleen Capabianco

Added 29th August 2015



A God In Ruins is the companion book to Life After Life, Kate Atkinson’s magnificent book about the Todd family but in particular Ursula who died and was re-born on a regular basis. In A God In Ruins it is Teddy’s story that we follow, Ursula’s beloved brother, and while we don’t have the time-altering structure of Life After Life, we have timelines flitting backwards and forwards between Teddy’s younger years, his war years and his post-war years. Juxtaposing the different timelines gives a different perspective on characters and their behaviour. The monstrous Viola, Teddy’s daughter, is blazingly angry towards her father and treats the ‘war hero’ appallingly. Later we find out she has her reasons but we also see how unforgiving she is and how bitter it has made her.

Atkinson takes us deep into the heart of her characters and leaves caring deeply for most of them. Not only Teddy but his wife Nancy, daughter Viola and his grandchildren Sunny and Bertie. The chapter given over to Sunny’s childhood is heartbreaking and is a book in itself.

The way Kate Atkinson injects humour into what are sometimes harrowing circumstances with just one or two well-placed words is genius and captures life, especially English life of this period, perfectly.

The chapters on war, Teddy’s war as a part of bomber command flying Halifax planes, are brilliant slices of drama that take you on journeys that you would really rather not know about let alone participate in. The horror is brought to life unflinchingly.

There are huge themes at work in this book; war: man’s fall from grace; fate: how life can change in the blink of an eye; human nature: how much can it survive and keep going.

This is a hard book to review because there are so many aspects to discuss and I obviously don’t want to spoil it for anybody. So you may as well just go out, buy it and read it. It is wonderful.


Reviewed by:

Sandra Foy

Added 30th May 2015

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Sandra Foy