Prose that sings from the pages

In Kate Atkinson’s bestselling ‘Life After Life’, time rearranged itself, chaotic and unremitting, and Ursula Todd’s life perpetually looped back to its beginning.

The masterful ‘A God In Ruins’ resumes the mantle of World War II and its banal brutality, as Ursula’s brother Teddy joins Bomber Command and attempts to enact a life of love, survival, and approximate honour in the 20th century.

Atkinson uses time once more to tell a multitude of histories as the novel slips between generations and decades: we know Teddy as gauche young pilot, weary wing commander, ‘plodding’ husband, heroic grandfather. The rebellious hatred of his daughter Viola wreaks equal and opposite damage in the lives of her father and children, from the communes of the swinging Sixties to the care homes of the Noughties.

Atkinson’s dry, sharp prose gives ‘A God In Ruins’ a light touch, despite the heavy potential of its finely-wrought historical setting. It paints both the painful and the most ordinary detail of extraordinary times: the worn felt cat that Teddy’s crew carried for luck; the engine mechanics of his clapped-out Halifax bomber. At Atkinson’s deft hands, the unassuming and pragmatic Teddy sings from the page. It was a wrench to turn the last one.

‘A God In Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £20 (ebook £8.03).

Tracey Thorn’s bestseller ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ told the story of the Everything But The Girl singer’s journey through the pop world. But what Thorn did not have time or space to tell in her pop memoir was what it was like to be a singer: her emotions, her moods, her hopes and fears. Drawing on several interviews with other singers and referencing extensive research of other writers on the subject of singing, Thorn pulls no punches when it comes to examining her own abilities and those of others. The result is an honest appraisal of what motivates people to stand up in front of hundreds if not thousands of fellow human beings and how they feel about it.

‘Naked At The Albert Hall: The Inside Story Of Singing’ by Tracey Thorn is published in hardback by Virago, priced £16.99 (ebook £5.99).