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.