This is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy into as many hands as I could.
Hard to imagine a time when Kate Atkinson wasn’t a literary household name, albeit one seemingly doomed not to win another literary prize after bagging both the Whitbread First Novel and Book of the Year Awards with Behind the Scenes at the Museum. I was a bookseller at the time, handed a proof by my Transworld rep who promised it would be the next big thing, hardly an infrequent occurrence but he proved to be spot on. It sold and sold.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum is the story of Ruby Lennox told in her own voice from the moment of her conception, heralded by a few grunts and groans from her father while her mother feigns sleep. Ruby and her family live above their pet shop in the shadow of York Minster. Theirs is a story of humdrum family life in the ‘50s – endless housework, minor peccadilloes on the part of Ruby’s father, homework, weddings and funerals. Interwoven with Ruby’s story is that of her great-grandmother, her grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins as they struggle through two world wars. But there are small gaps in the narrative, hints of something amiss. Family secrets, long hidden, begin to surface – one so devastating that it overwhelms Ruby even as it explains so much that has been puzzling in her life.
You could say Atkinson’s writing career to date is a game of two halves – the Jackson Brodie books with their popular appeal which translated beautifully to TV, and novels such as Life After Life and Human Croquet which dip a toe in postmodern water. She’s a wonderfully inventive writer whose work continues to delight her many fans, me included.
What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?
You can find more posts like this here