Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Remember when I said that sometimes I could just tell ahead of time that I am going to like an author?  Kate Atkinson fit that bill for me, and I am happy to say I was right, again.

I am even more impressed that Behind the Scenes at the Museum is her debut novel.  This novel traces Ruby, in her own words, from conception (literally) through her childhood and teenage years.  A coming of age story and one with a double twist - maybe triple twist - I didn't see coming.

Ruby's family is a mess.  We get Ruby's story, but it's interspersed with a troubled family history going back to Ruby's great grandmother.  Ruby's extended family has something of a curse on it, in that many of them die young.  Many of them are also unhappy, and find themselves depressed, considering or vigorously participating in adultery, yelling at their children, ignoring their responsibilities, or otherwise being on the crazy end of human existence.  A few are probably actually psychotic.

The focus is very female here, and the book is full of women who are unsatisfied and unfulfilled by their lives.  Most of the men remain distant figures, although we do get shining glimpses of them in both World Wars.

That Ruby and her surviving sister find their ways through this terrible weight of history is amazing,

Final call:

I am giving this the full complement of stars because I have rarely found an author who can so brilliantly dance the fine line between depicting real life and farce.

I think we have probably all had moments in the lives of our families where we find ourselves thinking, "This cannot possibly actually be happening, this is like something out of a bad movie or a cartoon."  Times where things have gone so far off the rails as to come around the other side and you just have to laugh or else you'll cry.  Atkinson is absolutely brilliant at this.

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