Still reading my blog? Thank you, and no, this is not my pen name.
Still here? Bless your heart! Okay, I can understand doubt and resistance. Let me blab a little about Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson.
I've been disappointed by some of the prize winners out of the UK (Not naming names, but the Booker Prize, "the best original full-length novel in the English language" has me scratching my head on a regular basis).
But this one --! Kate Atkinson's debut novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread (now Costa Award) in 1995. I regret not having found this one sooner, because she is a wonderful writer (she has a compelling mystery series featuring Jackson Brodie including the lovely title Started Early, Took My Dog) and this a great story.
The novel starts:
"I exist! I am conceived to the chimes of midnight on the clock on the mantelpiece in the room across the hall. The clock once belonged to my great-grandmother (a woman called Alice) and its tired chime counts me into the world."
And continues as the narrator, Ruby, is born ("I don't like this. I don't like this one little bit. Get me out of here somebody, quick! My frail little skeleton is being crushed like a thin-shelled walnut.") into 1952 York, in the north of England. The family -- unhappily married George and Bunty, Ruby's sisters, a grandmother -- lives above their pet shop. Each is wrapped in his and her own concerns, which are carefully observed by Ruby in a way that is by turns laugh-out-loud funny and breathtakingly sad.
The storytelling seems like magic: "Tom, however, continued to believe that Lawrence had been spirited away into thin air, infecting the younger children with the idea so that for ever afterwards when they remembered Lawrence they remembered him as a mystery, for they never heard from him again, although he did try to write but the family had moved on by then."
Ruby tumbles over and then circles a handful of family secrets. The secrets are neither spectacular nor sordid, but they resonate and amplify forward and backward into the past of the family.
Yeah, I know, I make it sound...not so spectacular. But believe me when I say get your nose into this book. And then don't plan to get anything done until you've finished.
You're welcome. In advance.