So I read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life last year, and despite the amazing reviews it got, I just did not like it. It was depressing, the main character keep dying over and over (which I know was the whole point, but gawd), and I just could not enjoy it. But I liked Atkinson’s style of writing, and Stephen King, of all people, recommends her over and over, so I thought I’d give it another shot.
“Patricia embraces me on the station platform. ‘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.”
I did like Behind the Scenes at the Museum more than I liked Life After Life, although it didn’t exactly blow me away. This is the story of six generations of women, narrated by the youngest, Ruby Lennox. She tells us the story of her life beginning at conception, and by alternating chapters of her current existence with flashbacks, we learn about her mother and grandmother and great-grandmother and so on. It’s basically a long line of very unhappy British women whose children keep dying. It took me about a hundred pages to actually get into the story, and most of my issue was that it’s hard to keep track of who is who. The narrative bounces around a lot and all of the names starts to blur together (Caitlin_D, you would hate this book, by the way). But once I got the hang of things I did like the story. There’s a lot of effective use of foreshadowing that I appreciated. Unfortunately, like in Life After Life, children kept dying in this book. But the dark humor that Atkinson employees through Ruby’s voice made it a little bit easier to cope this time around.
I could see how this book (Atkinson’s debut) was echoed in Life After Life, but I do think this one was better. I was definitely impressed enough by the constantly intertwining stories to give Atkinson at least one more shot… which is good because I have a copy of Case Histories sitting on my TBR right now.