Oh the joy of sinking into a family saga by reading the sequel/companion novel right away! Reminds me of the massive English family sagas that I used to read by authors like Susan Howatch and Rosamunde Pilcher.
The main character in this book is Teddy, a minor character in Life After Life and Ursula’s little brother. He marries his childhood sweetheart and is portrayed as a gentle decent man, a long-suffering father to a horrible daughter who makes life very difficult for everyone around her. “He loved Viola as only a parent can love a child, but it was hard work.” Happily her two children grow up well despite their splendidly cantankerous mother (an ex-hippie turned novelist, “almost as good as Jodi Picoult”). Most of the book focusses on Ted as an RAF pilot in the war, working the strategic bombing commands over Germany. These missions were some of the worst, with very high casualties–as harrowing to read as the London Blitz sections in Life After Life, but all very well described.
A God in Ruins did not have the unique structure that Life After Life had, but she does toy with time a bit in this one as well, flitting back and forth. I did not find that annoying and I think it enhanced the story. Atkinson writes beautifully about everyday sorts of things but also using imagery, in this case about rising and falling, especially ascending in flight or falling back to earth. I think I liked Life After Life better, because of the way she played with infinite chances and possible scenarios, but I did love how some of the little mysteries in Life After Life were answered in A God in Ruins–another good reason to read them in tandem.