A God in Ruins Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 112 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A God in Ruins.
This section contains 602 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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A God in Ruins Summary & Study Guide Description

A God in Ruins Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.

"A God in Ruins," by Kate Atkinson, tells the story of Englishman Teddy (Edward) Beresford Todd and the effect of his role in World War II on his life. Viola (Teddy's daughter), Teddy's two grandchildren (Bertie and Sunny), and an omniscient narrator tell the story. The novel takes place between 1925 and 2012. Each chapter takes place in a different year, but the story is not chronological. Each chapter includes past, present, and future tenses. The book requires a careful reading to avoid confusion.

Teddy joined the war effort almost immediately after then-Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced Britain's involvement in the war against Germany. Teddy joined because he wanted a life of adventure. Since the job he was doing at the time was so monotonous, he thought that serving in the war was a better choice.

During the war, Teddy was a bomber plane pilot. He regarded his crew as having become part of him, since they all trusted each other with their lives. Together, they saw first-hand the death and destruction of war. Teddy had a hard time reconciling the bombing of thousands of innocent lives by Great Britain and American forces, but he kept forward with the mission. Teddy went on three tours. He spent his leave between tours visiting Ursula, Nancy, and his mother. Teddy's last flight was part of a mission to bomb Nuremberg.

In Teddy's imagined life, he married Nancy in 1945. He had known Nancy since they were children. He loved her and was happy to have her as his wife. Together, they had Viola, who was a serious little girl. In 1960, Nancy died within months of receiving a cancer diagnosis. She had asked Teddy to help her end her life once she was past the point of no return. Teddy granted her request by holding a pillow over her head. Viola was in the doorway and watched the event, though Teddy never knew that she saw what occurred.

Viola's witnessing of her father killing her mother set her down a destructive path. She did not know how to love. As a result, she searched for love in many unhealthy places. She lived with a man named Dominic on a commune named Adam's Acre. It was there that their daughter named Bertie was born. Dominic was bi-polar, but Viola did not know that when she was with him. They became parents again to a son named Sunny.

Viola had a vile personality and treated others with little or no respect, depending on who they were. She held a deep sense of contempt for her father and openly conveyed her feelings. Since Viola was not fond of taking care of children, she gave Bertie and Sunny to Teddy. Living with their grandfather was a haven they much preferred anyway.

Bertie and Sunny's lives were deeply scarred by their parents' abandonment, but Sunny was the only one who obviously lashed out. Bertie became a marketing executive. She was happy with her life, especially after she married and had two children. Sunny sought peace on a global scale and ended up living in Bali as an internationally known yoga instructor. Though Bertie and Viola do not reconcile their relationship, Sunny and Viola do when Viola visits Sunny in Bali after not seeing him for an entire decade.

Chapter 16 takes the story from past tense to present tense. The story line changes dramatically. The narrator describes the change as a falling "house of fiction." The story of Teddy's life after March 30, 1944 was imaginary. Teddy had died in a fiery crash when his bomber aircraft fell into the North Sea.

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This section contains 602 words
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