Memorable. Surprises abound. Characters to really care about, to love, and to be appalled by! A true picture of growing up in the 50s, with an abundance of detailed domestic life. Certain passages stay with the reader, like: "I have been to the world's end and back and now I know what I would put in my bottom drawer. I would put my sisters." The bottom drawer, when you read the book, stands for a place for needful things.
A terrific book by hot British writer Kate Atkinson, author of "Case Histories." This one was a Whitbread Book of the Year, and on the NY Times "Notable Books of the Year" list.
Alternating between a first person account of the young life of Ruby Lennox, and a series of chapter-long 'footnotes' that give insight into the backstory of Ruby's extended family, the book is darkly comic, sometimes tragic, wise, and very original.
The unique perspective of this book draws you in; you almost instantly feel sorry for its narrator and immediately grasp how dysfunctional her family life will be. The book has some dark humor and is, for the most part, a dark book. It has some intense surprises in it (that I really didn't see coming) and at the end, the book is rather uplifting. It follows much more than the narrators sad life, it really follows the lives of about three generations of women in her family. Since it encompassses such a wide time-span, it really reads like historical fiction at times, with female perspectives on two World Wars, life in the 50's, etc. A fascinating read focused on the relationship between mothers and their kids, but also a multi-generational perspective on women's search for acceptance and happiness.
This is a tough review to write! I loved the words, the ideas, the narration by the character who has not yet been born when the story begins. However, I found the arrangement of stories, back and forth between two generations, to be distracting and something that just did not contribute to the quality of the story. And, much to my dismay (and embarrassment), I have NO idea what the title means. I'm sure I missed some critical point along the way in my effort to stumble through and keep up with the separate stories, but I am clueless!
A very funny book written by a woman from Yorkshire in England. It tells the story of Ruby and her strange family. This is a first novel, but definitely worth the read. The family is so horrible, you feel guilty laughing, but you can't help it.
Love this author's quirky, dark sense of humor. Have read most of her Jackson Brodie series but may have liked this one more. You may need a notepad to keep track of the characters in the different generations, though.
It's hard to believe that this is the author's first book; it is so confidently and poetically written. It was a ittle difficult to keep track of the family members as she went back and forth in time, but really a good read, engrossing, with biting humor and honest warmth. Think I'll have to buy more of her books to read now.
Info on the book:
1995 Whitbread Book of the Year
In her profoundly moving, uniquely comic debut, Kate Atkinson introduces readers to the mind and world of Ruby Lennox, born above a pet shop in York at the halfway point of the twentieth century, and determined to understand both the family that precedes her adn the life that awaits her.
Taking her own conception as her starting point, the irrepressible Ruby narates a story of four generations of women, from her great-grandmother's affair with a French photographer, to her mother's unfulfilled dreams of Hollywod glamour, to her young sister's efforts to upstage the Queen on Coronation Day. Hurtling in and out of both World Wars, economic downfalls, the onset of the permissive '60s, and up to the present day, Ruby paints a rich and vivid portrait of family heartbreak and happiness.
The organization of the chapters - a chapter in the present followed by a footnote chapter a generation or two in the past - made it hard to remember who some of the characters were (siblings of the mother? the grandmother?) But it's worth sticking through to figure it out.
This book has received many rave reviews but I found it difficult to get into. It featured so many characters and swings back in forth in time that I couldn't keep them all straight.
Told from the viewpoint of Ruby who lets the reader in on her relatives (and boy, does she have a ton) most intimate secrets. It's interesting but the continued time flips and the huge cast of characters keeps jolting me out of the story.
I finished but but it remained too confusing and uninvolving a read for me to rate any higher than a 3. It just seemed to go on and on with minor peaks and valleys and lots of death and tragedy but no huge climax or surprises. None that were very surprising or shocking to me at least. Only sad and dreary.
Lois L. (INFP) reviewed Behind the Scenes at the Museum on
This book was hard going, but worth it. Although, many reviews talk about it being darkly comic, I didn't find anything about it funny. It's a dense journey in the generations of a family and not a happy family.
I'm glad I read it, but it's not light.
After falling in deep love with Kate Atkinson's newest book, Life After Life, I was eager to get my eyes on everything else she had written.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum was disappointing to me, in comparison to LAL. I have enjoyed her Case History books, but nothing has lived up to LAL.
I think this is a case of having read an author's best book first. Behind the Scenes at the Museum is very well written, great characters, nothing bad to say about it, but my only real joy was in spying signs of the writing to come in Life After Life. Glad I read it and hope you will try it, too.
From Amazon.com -
"I exist!" exclaims Ruby Lennox upon her conception in 1951, setting the tone for this humorous and poignant first novel in which Ruby at once celebrates and mercilessly skewers her middle-class English family. Peppered with tales of flawed family traits passed on from previous generations, Ruby's narrative examines the lives in her disjointed clan, which revolve around the family pet shop. But beneath the antics of her philandering father, her intensely irritable mother, her overly emotional sisters, and a gaggle of eccentric relatives are darker secrets--including an odd "feeling of something long forgotten"--that will haunt Ruby for the rest of her life. Kate Atkinson earned a Whitbread Prize in 1995 for this fine first effort.
I was so looking forward to reading this book, based on reviews and Kate Atkinson's reputation. I knew it would be different from her other novels, but didn't expect it to be so disconnected. I plodded through 84 pages and just felt like I was obligated to pick it up. When I feel like I 'should' finish a book, and am not reading for enjoyment, it's time to put it down. I found myself a little depressed the week I struggled to read it, not realizing it was this book making me feel so blue. Maybe a good murder mystery will lift my spirits! I hope the next pbs member enjoys it!
I enjoyed this book, but I was not addicted to it like I have been to the other Kate Atkinson novels I've read. I enjoyed the first half (or maybe 2/3rds) quite a bit and I definitely liked Ruby, in whose voice the story is told. I'm not sure what happened, maybe more characters than I could track.