Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson
Transworld Digital (ebook), 1995
Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn’t married. Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster, with sensible and sardonic Patrica aged five, greedy cross-patch Gillian who refused to be ignored, and Ruby.
Ruby tells the story of The Family, from the day at the end of the nineteenth century when a travelling French photographer catches frail beautiful Alice and her children, like flowers in amber, to the startling, witty, and memorable events of Ruby’s own life.
Behind The Scenes At The Museum is fantastic. I loved this weird but wonderful novel. I’m becoming a huge fan of Atkinson. Ruby is an excellent first person narrator and I liked the way she recounted the up’s and down’s of her own lives. The lives of her ancestors are recounted in footnotes at the end of each chapter. This style works really well. The structure is unusual but really effective. Behind The Scenes At The Museum reminds me of other Atkinson novels including Human Croquet and Life After Life. There are a couple of moments in the novel when Ruby drops hints of what lies ahead (i.e. we are told several times about Gillian’s death before it happens). I could have done without these little premonitions. I prefer to be surprised. This is the only fault I could find with this otherwise fantastic novel. I had an emotional connection with Ruby and some of the tragedy that strikes the family. There are also some light-hearted moments. Behind The Scenes At The Museum is a fantastic novel and I’d highly recommend it.