The Costa Book Awards are a prestigious British book award that will be held in January. This month, I'll be reading the Novel shortlist consisting of four books, starting with A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.
A God In Ruins is a companion novel to Life After Life, which means that you don't have to read them both, but doing so will help your understanding. Mostly, there seems to be an overlap of characters between the two books and, though I haven't read Life After Life, understanding the characters is easier when reading the first novel first.
Maybe that's the reason why I found the beginning particularly slow; not a whole lot happens and we're introduced to a range of characters over a large range of time that don't really feel all that connected. Teddy, very early on clearly the main character, is the focus of each chapter, no matter what time it takes place, but the other characters felt dislocated and odd.
However, this feeling only lasts the first fifty pages and by then any reader completely falls in love with Teddy. He's courageous, righteous (without trying to force it on other people), and constantly tries to keep everyone happy in his own way. He's by far one of the most enjoyable characters I've encountered and it made it so easy to follow him on his journey.
The most special thing about that journey is the structure that it is told in. Instead of linearly following Teddy from his country childhood through World War II to him settling down and picking up his life after the war, Kate Atkinson gives the reader insight in different time periods with each chapter. This means we go from Teddy as a child, to him after the war, to him in the war and then back again; each chapter is a different time period with a different event. Thanks to Kate Atkinson amazing eye for detail and writing style, this works perfectly. There are constantly little hints dropped in the earlier chapters about what's to happen later and in the chapters where Teddy is older, things are explained about his earlier life. It's a beautiful balance between knowing and wanting to know more that keeps you reading until you finish the book.
Without spoiling anything, I must say the ending of this book is the best ending I've ever read and it has stuck with me for over a week now. At random moments during the day, I remember it and wonder about how it could be applied to my life and the decisions I make. It has made this one of the books that has impacted my life in the most profound way.
Clearly, this book was amazing and even though the beginning was slow in my opinion, the story picked up really fast and the characters really grown on the reader until you can't help feeling everything they feel. This is a five star rated book and I can't stop recommending this to every single person I met.