Saturday, July 6, 2013

Retro Read: Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

I quickly became a huge fan of Kate Atkinson earlier this year when I read the amazing Life After Life. This means I have to go back and read all of her previous works, and the first stop is this wonderful quirky novel about Ruby Lennox and her family--both present and past.

Ruby's story starts with the moment she is conceived, and from there goes back and forth between Ruby's young life with a very angry mother (angry about her crappy marriage and life), a cheating father, and two older sisters to the past with her grandmother, great-grandmother, aunts and uncles.  

The story moves all over the place, but it's not hard to follow at all.  Kate Atkinson is a master at combining humor and heartache and delving into the life of a family where everyone is unhappy but still stuck together.  So much happens to Ruby's family as she's born in 1952; her parents have the most dysfunctional marriage and struggle to keep their pet shop open while living above the shop.  Generations are woven into the story--and you think "what is the point?"  Oh, but there is a point.  Bunty's behavior (Ruby's mother) is explained by her experiences as a child.  Nell, Ruby's Grandmother, has a heartbreaking childhood that in turn influences her adult life.  And Alice, Ruby's Great-Grandmother makes a crucial choice that echoes down through the generations.  

I so enjoyed this novel.  I can understand why it won the Whitbread Book of the Year award in 1995.  I am still in awe of Kate Atkinson's giant brain and incredible talent.  This novel is for those who like to read family histories with a British background; novels about dysfunctional families in the 20th century, and novels with a background of world events that, as always, become so personal and life changing at a family level.  

Rating:  8/10  for an entertaining story about Ruby--who you will love, and what makes a family.

Available in paperback and e-book.

1 comment :

  1. I loved Life After Life so I'll have to add this to my wishlist, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd OUt