Behind the Scenes at the Museum - Kate Atkinson
Behind the Scenes of the Museum is a disappointment. I began with the Brodie mysteries and was won over. Brodie is an endearing, hapless detective who just walks into intrigue. He picks up a dog and cases and doesn't leave until everyone is in their rightful place. I was also impressed with Life After Life. I decided to read Atkinson's debut and break out novel. Maybe, it was the order which influenced my rating.

Ruby, the youngest of the Lenoxes is a remarkable character and sometime narrator. Her life, her immediate family's life and her maternal grandmother's and great grandmother's families' lives are all shown with all of their repulsive warts. Families were large then, so that's a lot of people bridging more than 2 World Wars. Too many for me to keep track of, especially because they drift in and out in place and time. 

Unfortunately, they are a sad lot, dysfunctional and failing in so many ways. The bleak, cold families are unable to create warmth for their progeny or for me, the reader. The same unloving and unloved characters survive, yet their more loving and loved ones are destroyed in one war or another. 

The devastation of war and the family is introduced and reintroduced. This same tactic is used in Atkinson's later work, Life After Life to much greater advantage. There, a layer of new understanding is created in each chapter.

I'm still trying to understand the title of this saga. A museum houses objects of beauty or of scientific, historic or social importance. The objects are observed and studied. Here the families are the objects, not noted for their beauty, but for their ugliness. I imagine that these families are of social importance. Why did these people marry and procreate?

It is Ruby's story . She is the valuable, but not valued gem. She tells us about how the Lenox girls withered and fell, not because of war and how her mother's family withered and fell for so many reasons and war.

As I reread my review, I see that I am repeating myself, hoping to shed some light on why I was only semi involved with this novel and much more so with Atkinson's later works. She learned how to weave her characters and their lives together, not just because of blood. She continues to write about ugly people and families, but also creates odd but loving counterpoints. 

I am glad that I started out with the Brodie Mysteries. Atkinson has evolved into a skilled story teller and curator of family life.
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