I think AGIR may be better than her previous novel, Life After Life, for which this is a “companion” piece.
This is one of those books that leave you sad and stunned that it is over.
It is partly set during the Second World War, showing what is was like to be a pilot in the British Air Force. Such an incredible, terrible time. The stories from wartime Britain are gripping enough in themselves.
However, this novel has many different layers to it: there is the war story, the family story, plus the link to the previous book, Life After Life. It explores themes of love, death, the rights and wrongs of war, sacrifice and the prison of ordinary lives.
I think you probably should read LAL first, before reading this book. AGIR does stand on its own, and it could be read first, but since it references the same people and sequence of events as LAL, I reckon it is best to read them in order. Having said that, immediately after finishing AGIR I went back and started to reread LAL again. Kind of like the books themselves.
‘Time isn’t circular,’ she said to Dr Kellet. ‘It’s like a … palimpsest.’
‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘That sounds vexing.’
‘And memories are sometimes in the future.’
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson