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

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Universal book group acclaim for A God in Ruins w/ one significant demurral

Rare universal acclaim last night from book group on Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins, all impressed with her intelligent design of the novel, her ability to tell the life story of a characters, her admirable use of research, her selection of a grand theme - the effect of WWII on one English aviator and, by extension, on the entire nation and its culture. The single point of debate, obviously, was Atkinson's strange decision to upend her entire narrative in the last chapter and author's note. As I noted in previous posts (and yes btw in re-reading those posts: WWI is a type in reference to Narrow Road to the Deep North; it's obviously WWII), Atkinson was really smart to avoid telling the story in straight narrative sequence; if she had, the highlight would have been the war years and the novel would have fallen flat in its second half. Yet: she refers many times to Teddy's being held in a German POW camp at end of war. I, like all readers, anticipated, as we got near the end and he was piloting a doomed bomber run, that he would survive the landing, be captured, and in the final pp we would see him as a POW - though it looked as if KA was running out of space to do that chapter justice. And then: she has Teddy die in the plane crash, in effect obliterating all of the subsequent elements of his life - and she needlessly preaches to us: these are just characters, a novel is the author's invention, an act of the imagination, etc. Well, as we noted last night, this kind of broke the contract readers engage in when we embark on reading a narrative: nothing up to that point suggested any postmodern narrative interventions, such as, for example, authorial asides to the reader. I  - we all - admired so much about this novel, but I had to wonder: was she just getting tired of it, did she shirk her responsibility to give us one more chapter, or was this all part of her design, and if so, why? It was so needless.

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