Life after Life is an appallingly difficult act to follow, and while this book is quite good and is still Katthe "companion piece" to Life After Life.
Life after Life is an appallingly difficult act to follow, and while this book is quite good and is still Kate Atkinson, it's not in the same league as its elder sibling.
this book follows Teddy, the younger and much-beloved brother of Life after Life's Ursula Todd. Teddy grows up to become an RAF bomber pilot, survives the war, marries his childhood sweetheart Nancy, fathers a vile and spoiled daughter, Viola, and remains a decent and honorable man. and never really gains an iota of traction in life after the war.
i really wonder if this book is some sort of cranky commentary on all postwar generations... as if the race has become attenuated, played out. Viola in particular is a really awful person, a terrible mother, and a nightmare of a daughter. it's hard to spend the number of pages with her that Atkinson has given her. there is absolutely nothing appealing about her.
the best parts of this book are Teddy's war--all that dedication and sacrifice, the best that humans can be. Atkinson undercuts this quite a bit with commentary by Sylvia and Ursula and Teddy's own doubts about whether it can ever be a good thing to drop bombs on civilians, so these parts of the book are not treacly war-porn-jingoism by a long shot. yet one can't read about the fight to stop the Nazis without questioning one's own pacifism. the Nazis were awful, and they did have to be stopped; and they were, by millions of boys bombing civilians and shooting civilians and so on. The Children's Crusade.
and yet after the war... in A God in Ruins, the race certainly doesn't seem to have been worth the sacrifice of so many young lives.
still... it's Kate Atkinson, and i doubt she could write a bad book if she were struck by aphasia. worth a read....more
an amazing character study... alas, one in which many happenings are foreshadowed, but almost none occur.
you have to be in the mood for this kind of ban amazing character study... alas, one in which many happenings are foreshadowed, but almost none occur.
you have to be in the mood for this kind of book. you have to be up for a minute anatomization of character, relationships, neighborhood sociology. it's sort of like an Austen book--all about the people, the societal constraints, written in beautiful sentences with deep insight and wide understanding.
it's fundamentally the coming-of-age story of two girls. in itself this is wonderful--few writers of Ferrante's caliber have written with such sensitivity about the feelings and perceptions of girls. as the two girls grow, their paths diverge--one into marriage, the other into scholarship--and the tensions between them split their intense bond.
but unlike an Austen novel, not much really seems to happen. events do not add up to larger consequences. things arise and fall back into the murk without any eventual significance. it's frustrating, like waiting for a gun to go off.
and maybe i'm a shallow reader, but i find many of the characters fairly predictable and boring. they're adolescents for much of the book, and while adolescence is certainly all-consuming for the adolescent, i'm not sure how much it can illuminate the life of an adult. Austen's (late) adolescents are at least redeemed by their wit and perspicacity, generally; Ferrante's struggle tongue-tied in the murk like real adolescents.
i guess it says something when the nearest comparison one can imagine is an Austen novel at all. but what i wouldn't have given for something to just happen in this book....more
what i'm thinking is, how can a reader get through a whole book when the POV character is a nasty, bitter, backstabbing, cranky person? aren't there ewhat i'm thinking is, how can a reader get through a whole book when the POV character is a nasty, bitter, backstabbing, cranky person? aren't there enough of those in real life? does one really need to seek out more?