Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Behind the Scenes at the Museum - Kate Atkinson

I found it difficult to figure out my exact sentiments towards 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' whilst actually reading it. There were elements that resonated with me and that I really enjoyed, yet there was a lot of half-hearted skim reading in places. It was only when I got to the last few pages and found a massive lump in my throat that I realised what an excellent book this was.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum is quite a dark, yet semi tragic-comedic, tale of time. In particular, the inevitable and unapologetic passing of it. Throughout the novel there is an inexorable feeling that our lives are just a drop in the ocean that soon will be lost forever into the vast abyss of history. However, one of my favourite quotes from this book which took place between pretty much the only two characters I gave two hoots about: Ruby (our narrator) and Patricia (her sister), is as follows:

"'The past is what you leave behind in life, Ruby,' she says with the smile of a reincarnated lama. 'Nonsense, Patricia,' I tell her as I climb on board my train. 'The past's what you take with you.'"

This really struck a chord with me. Despite the relatively disconnected and apathetic account of life and death that this novel supplies, it's a reminder that although we are born, we live, we die, each and every one of those lives is an individual with thoughts, feelings, dreams and fears, shaped by our experiences and fueled by our past. That in itself makes it entirely meaningful and beautiful.

This book was hard to read. The narrative made it difficult to care about the plethora of characters introduced and the fragmented nature of the novel made it impossible to lose yourself in its pages, which I would consider a mark of a truly incredible fiction.

However, Behind the Scenes at the Museum was intricately put together, it's a clever masterpiece of history and ancestry and I thoroughly enjoyed being transported into different times, different worlds, especially as they are caricatures of the lives our own parents, grandparents and great grandparents lived. It always astounds me to imagine just how life was like, and how much has changed over such a seemingly small timescale.

Overall, I wouldn't exactly jump to recommend this book but I would say it's worth a read. I'm just glad I managed to finish it, 7 years after my English teacher gave me her copy to read. Better late than never!
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