Sunday, 19 July 2015

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

I read this purely on the strength of  Life After Life, which I read last year and absolutely loved.  I was declaiming its virtues in work one day, when a colleague asked if I'd read Behind the Scenes at the Museum.  At my negative response, she raved lyrical for a good while, and I was convinced. Having now read it, however, I'm not quite as convinced as I was...

Let me start by saying that it is well written, cleverly plotted, and that the characters are both intricate and real: Ruby is a brilliantly realised voice.  Like Life After Life, the story switches between time frames, but in no way does it do so as cleverly as in Life After Life - but then, it's not the over-arching plotline in Behind the Scenes, whilst in Life After Life, that revisiting of the past is the very raison d'etre of the book.  Behind the Scenes is funny, heartbreaking, unputdownable (don't you just love an adjective that exists only for book lovers?), and yet...and yet...

I think it's me, not the book.  I have a kind of aversion to books that are set too predominantly in the real world, in a world I recognise. Although Behind the Scenes takes place largely in the decade before my own birth, it is a world that still exists (with a few technological additions) and I'm very much someone for whom stories are escapism, rather than a confirmation of one's own position.

I did enjoy this book, and I can see why people love it, and why it set Atkinson on the path to glory, but for me, mundanity got in the way of genius.  (If, however, I have put you off Behind the Scenes, don't let that sway you from Life After Life: that one really is brilliant.)

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