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Merle

Merle

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson

I loved Life After Life but am setting this one aside after 106 pages - it's a relief not to feel obliged to read the rest of it.

Life After Life is a puzzle box, a kaleidoscope of interlocking stories, where the unusual concept and Ursula's repeated deaths and attempts to avoid past mistakes create a fascinating story. This book is told in the same way, with the same jumbled timeline and impressionistic sliding from one scene to the next, and back and forth again, except here it's all in the service of a fairly mundane family saga. Rather than adding to the story's momentum or intellectual challenge, here the complex structure seems to me only to disguise a lack of narrative tension and create a remove between the reader and the characters. This is just a regular story about life, without much of a plot, and where we already know what's going to happen.

I know I'm in the minority among early readers of this book, and others are sure to like it better. In all fairness, I'm not much of a sequel reader; I thought Life After Life was great in itself and didn't need more of the same characters, much less in the same time period (for much of the book). The characterization and writing style here aren't bad, and so if you love Atkinson or if Life After Life was too much for you, it's worth a shot. But as far as I'm concerned, this is another weak follow-up to an excellent and popular novel.