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

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Plot, character, and why Atkinson works in the tradition of Virginia Woolf

The last chapters of Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins toggle between the last days of Teddy's life - he is +90 in a nursing home (a "care home") and not responding much if at all to what people are saying to and around him - we again see daughter Viola as a selfish and unsympathetic character (I still have trouble seeing her as a writer, one of the few flaws in this novel I think) and we see that he had a good relationship w/ grad-daughter, Bertie: we pick up a bit on Bertie's life, which has been almost a peripheral subject for Atkinson, and we see her meet the man who will become her husband as they're crossing Westminster Bridge (this section of the novel filled w/ allusions to British poetry and poetic drama - fun for literary types, i.e, most of her readers - we enjoy the game: can you source this quote...? ) . Most important chapter though is Teddy's last flight - again, KA does a great job making the bombing run to Nuremberg seem real, frightening - and offset by the cool insouciance of Teddy and the other members of his crew: great job of using research well to create historical fiction, rather than just to show off how much the author knows, learns, has read (remember the Children's Book?). The final chapters will obviously be Teddy's death in the care home and a chapter on his time as a POW (the plane crash lands on the way back from the bombing run) and, perhaps, his return to civilization, peace, and Nancy - but the novel is already quite an accomplishment, as complex and deep (or round) a creation of a literary character as in any recent novel - it's not a novel about plot, and even at the end my initial impression holds true: Atkinson works in the tradition of Woolf, a character developed as though through many brush strokes on a canvas, rather than through conflict and change over time.

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