Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

When I saw the cover of this book (I had ordered it at the library without seeing it), I sighed and thought "Another finding-love-feel-good story" but as soon as I started reading, I was hooked and found it hard to put down.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum opens with the conception of its narrator, Ruby Lennox. Even from the womb, she talks us through their lives and introduces us to the people around her. We not only get to meet her immediate family, which consists of her perfect housewife mother Bunty, philandering father George, her sisters (the "sensible" Patricia and "adorable" Gillian) but also, through the chapters called Footnotes, the rest of Bunty's family.

The story is not told in a chronological order but, to me, it was not confusing because they were ordered very cleverly; in a way to let readers to discover only what they need to know at the time and nothing more, which makes the reading more exciting. Also, the fact that the story is enriched with historical details (especially WWI and II) makes it a social documentation of the 20th century as well.

As some secrets of the family are revealed, it becomes obvious that this is not simple story but almost an ode to "dysfunctionality", broken dreams and survival. They have their fair-share of elopments, deaths, divorces, adoption, failure and jealousy. However, Atkinson's wonderful narrative saves it from becoming yet another tragic, sob-story. She does not tell her story, hoping to earn the reader's sympathy but to let us know that we all have our own stories, which are a mixtures of those dysfunctional relationships, shattered dreams, mistakes and missed opportunities.

If you are looking for a recently written book which will give you that great reading experience without being "stuffy", this is a book to consider. It is no wonder that it was the Whitbread Winner in 1995.

9/10 KitKats!