the “companion piece” to Life After Life.
Life after Life is an appallingly difficult act to follow, and while this book is quite good and is still Kate Atkinson, it’s not in the same league as its elder sibling.
this book follows Teddy, the younger and much-beloved brother of Life after Life‘s Ursula Todd. Teddy grows up to become an RAF bomber pilot, survives the war, marries his childhood sweetheart Nancy, fathers a vile and spoiled daughter, Viola, and remains a decent and honorable man. and never really gains an iota of traction in life after the war.
i really wonder if this book is some sort of cranky commentary on all postwar generations… as if the race has become attenuated, played out. Viola in particular is a really awful person, a terrible mother, and a nightmare of a daughter. it’s hard to spend the number of pages with her that Atkinson has given her. there is absolutely nothing appealing about her.
the best parts of this book are Teddy’s war–all that dedication and sacrifice, the best that humans can be. Atkinson undercuts this quite a bit with commentary by Sylvia and Ursula and Teddy’s own doubts about whether it can ever be a good thing to drop bombs on civilians, so these parts of the book are not treacly war-porn-jingoism by a long shot. yet one can’t read about the fight to stop the Nazis without questioning one’s own pacifism. the Nazis were awful, and they did have to be stopped; and they were, by millions of boys bombing civilians and shooting civilians and so on. The Children’s Crusade.
and yet after the war… in A God in Ruins, the race certainly doesn’t seem to have been worth the sacrifice of so many young lives.
still… it’s Kate Atkinson, and i doubt she could write a bad book if she were struck by aphasia. worth a read.