LET'S TALK ABOUT ... Kate ATKINSON
LET’S TALK ABOUT ...
Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995)
KATE ATKINSON has come a long way since she achieved literary success with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995), a comic, poignant story of a dysfunctional middle-class English family and the dark secrets that punctuate the mundanity of their lives in grim, gritty Yorkshire. Ruby Lennox is one heck of a memorable character: perky, quirky, intelligent and pessimistic, a child struggling to make sense of the world around her and, in the process, exposing skeletons in the family closet. Conversational and humorous in tone and light in touch, this novel gripped me from the moment I read the first sentence (“I exist! I am conceived to the chimes of midnight on the clock on the mantelpiece in the room across the hall.”) until the end. Atkinson is a very funny writer and she has succeeded in creating an eccentric cast of compelling characters coming to grips with the sheer bloody awfulness of life. There is no denying that much of her forte as a writer lies in her observational humour and narrative exuberance.
Atkinson's recent novel, Case Histories (2004), is a quite a departure from her first novel, though equally good. Private investigator Jackson Brodie, a former police officer, is adrift in Cambridgeshire amidst death, intrigue and other misfortunes, bringing restorative truth to those wounded. Brodie is as nice as they come, though a tad bitter and cynical. A comic novelist, her books have been consistently entertaining.
However, if you are new to Kate Atkinson, I suggest that you read Behind the Scenes at the Museum first before tackling Case Histories. Read the rest of her ouvre only if you have acquired a taste for Atkinson's lively and conversational prose, wry observations and brilliant turns of phrase and metaphors.
ATKINSON Kate [1951-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in York, England. NOVELS Case Histories (2004: shortlisted for the 2004 Whitbread Award for the Novel); Emotionally Weird: A Comic Novel (2000); Human Croquet (1997); Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995: winner of the 1995 Whitbread First Novel and Book of the Year Awards, the 1996 Yorkshire Post Literary Award for Best First Work, and the 1996 Lire Book of the Year Award) STORIES Not the End of the World (2002) PLAYS Abandonment (2000); Nice (1996)