Tuesday 30 December 2014

Review by Morgen Bailey of Kate Atkinson's "Behind the Scenes at the Museum"

I first read this book in 2006 as part of a three-part college course analysing Kate’s first three books, this being the first. I remember struggling with it because of the number of characters (from memory, eleven maternal women) but I persevered because of the course. I was glad I did because I enjoyed it, helped by having drawn a family tree – which would have been useful to have in the printed version – and the memory of having visited York Castle museum as a schoolgirl.

This time I’m listening to the audiobook which can often be trickier to keep up with because of distractions (I’m usually walking the dog).

We follow Ruby’s progress through life and a child’s interpretation of the world and those (her family) around her including her uncaring mother who, when one of her daughters says, “I don’t like porridge,” replies “Well, I don’t like children so that’s too bad for you, isn’t it.”

Although I’m not a fan of history, it was interesting, and often poignant, listening to the sections about Ruby’s ancestors. That said, I would have preferred a larger portion dedicated to Ruby’s present day (especially where her wonderful imagination is told with charming humour) and less about the ancestors as they didn’t feel overly relevant at times.
With audiobooks, the narrator is a big part of the listening experience and some are better than others. This is the first I’ve heard with Diana Quick and while I enjoyed her most of the time, there were instances where her childish narration of Ruby grated but that was as much about the writing than the voice.

Although not my favourite of Kate’s, she’s still my favourite living author.

About the reviewer 
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance writer, editor, tutor, blogger, and speaker. Like her, her blog, http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. Her debut novel, several short story collections, and writer’s block workbooks are available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords. 

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