Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

Title – Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Author– Kate Atkinson

Published -1995 (paperback)

Genre – Contemporary fiction

It has been hard to miss this novel in the shops since it was published in 1995 and in a book-purchasing binge I bought a copy. This book is the perfect lesson in why I really should read all that blurb by the publishers!

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 Patricia 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.

This was Kate Atkinson’s first novel, and it was the winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year 1995. A book outside my normal reading list, and one which I really struggled to finish. Although the story is told by Ruby we also follow, through footnotes (what other writers call chapters), three generations of Ruby’s ancestors. To be honest I think it was three – but I did get pretty confused. While the story of Ruby’s life was chronological and dated, the other stories didn’t seem to be and I found myself suddenly plunged backwards in time without much of a clue as to when I was. I do remember the book touching on several wars, although I can’t be sure which ones. I couldn’t remember which aunt was which or when. It was more convoluted than many thrillers! And of course I was expecting something about a museum – so I should learn not to take titles too literally. I found this a frustrating read although I know I will be disagreeing with a lot of people about this. Not sure if I would try another of Kate Atkinson’s books, although they do have covers which suggest I would enjoy them!

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