Kate Atkinson Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Kate Atkinson Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Award: Whitbread Awards for Fiction for Book of the Year and First Novel

Atkinson is a British short story writer and novelist.

Atkinson, described at times uncharitably as a middled-aged chambermaid, was awarded the Whitbread Prize over fellow nominee Salman Rushdie with some critical disapproval. When the clamor abated, however, positive reviews of Behind the Scenes at the Museum dominated. Described as an ambitious, well-crafted first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum follows the life of the irrepressible Ruby Lennox from conception (an event of which she is aware, and opinionated) well into adulthood. Ruby is gifted with an omnipotence beyond her years, as well as the ability to see the ghosts of her ancestors who inhabit the tiny home she shares with her parents and siblings above her father's pet shop. Critics remarked on the richness of Atkinson's characterization as well as her skill in conveying the multigenerational connections established as everyday objects and events spark memories or preview future additions to the family. Ben Macintyre remarked that the setting and everyday events of Ruby's story are typical of Yorkshire, a place of "grimness, grit, and grandeur." "Like Yorkshire itself," Macintyre remarks, "Behind the Scenes at the Museum is all sharp edges; it is a caustic and affectionate portrayal of a world in which bleak but nourishing wit is the only safety net." In addition to the Whitbread Award, Atkinson is also the recipient of a 1993 Ian St. James Award for short stories.