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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

More vivid writing and further character development in A God in Ruins

I'm kinds going through the long chapters in Kate Atlkinson's novel A God in Ruins one at a time, and the chapter I read last night focused on the youngest generation of the Todd family - centering this novel on Teddy, wwII bomber pilot born about 1920 - Sunny is his grandson, son and older child of Teddy's only child, the grumpy Viola, who more or less neglects, even abandons her kids, and ultimately decides to send them to live w/ their father, Domenic - they had never marred and D was a hippie painter, with little talent but, fortunate for him, a lot of money in his "noble" family.  Sunny moves in w/ his father's family, at about age 7?, in the early 80s? - and that's where we pick him up. He is miserable, constantly picked on and tormented and corrected at every step by his evil grandmother; the grandfather is witless and out of the picture, the poor kid is suffering, literally starving, and unfortunately for him he's not the cleverest or brightest or wiliest of his - he can't easily figure things out, and he's just trying to get along in his misery, he wants to please the adults around him but can't read any of the social clues. Two dramatic elements carry this chapter. First, we are always in one way or another coming back to Teddy's point of view, and we see that he is tormented by is ill-conceived decision to let his grandson go with his father's parents: when they came to pick up the boy, it was obvious that they were mean people and ill-suited to take care of a child, and he should have put his foot down right there. 2nd, Sunny's father, Domenic, is seriously disturbed, and this culminates in a manic episode in which he takes Sunny and they walk a great distance, D., takes several tabs of lsd, even considers giving some to Sunny!, and they when they come to a rr crossing D has them sit down to contemplate the beauty of the parallel lines - eventually, right in front of the kid, he's smashed to death by an oncoming train. If this were not trauma enough, the idiot medical examiner assumes or believes that D died trying to save his son (in fact Sunny struggled to pull D off the tracks before jumping to safety). Sunny cannot figure out why people scorn and shun him, as if he were guilty of patricide - so we see in this chapter the formation of Sunny's troubled mind and get another key piece of information about Teddy. Again, this is not exactly the kind of novel I usually read - not sufficiently plot-driven, all about setting and character - but another example in this chapter of vivid and insightful and sometimes beautiful writing.

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