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Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel Paperback – February 1, 1997
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The Valley (The Valley Trilogy)
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
One thing I found very interesting about this book was the way the women's lives went from the unending drudgery of cooking, cleaning, mending, pregnancy and taking care of numerous children by Alice, the great-grandmother who lived in rural 19th century England, to the comparatively empty days of Bunty, Ruby's mother, days that are filled up with a dedication to housekeeping that only mimics what was once a necessity of life. Alice lived in a world where the failure to bake bread and to keep up with darning and mending meant that children went hungry and cold in winter. Bunty lives in a world attached to a strict household schedule (washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, cleaning on Wednesday, etc) and where store-bought cakes and cookies are looked upon as evidence of a slatternly nature.
Another interesting this about this book is the way Ruby's! voice changes from when she is little to when she grows up! . Little Ruby is consumed with magical thinking, she believes in a world of ghosts where things happen for no reason and a deck of cards designed to teach the alphabet become a wondrous bridge to life away from home. As she grows, her voice takes on depth and the effects of secondary school and while the frivolity and delightful silliness that characterize little Ruby's world continue to exist, they are moderated by her maturity. This is a truly wonderful book.
This museum turns out to be just like the museum that YOUR OWN family owns.
Exhibits at the "Lennox family museum" include:
A. A pink, daisy-shaped, glass button
B. A lucky rabbit's foot
C. A George VI coronation teaspoon
D. A bright, artificial smile
E. Bunty's unbearably sad childhood
F. Rabbit-shaped clouds hanging in the sky like zepplins
G. "Mind your boots, Lily"
H. A plane in a death spin
I. Your sister says not to worry
J. The silver locket
K. Thinking about home
Strange exhibits for a museum, don't you think?
These "exhibits" are simply items and memories belonging to several generations of the Lennox family. Each "exhibit" carries with it a history and a memory that the casual onlooker cannot fathom. Some people, like Ruby Lennox, feel that "the past is what you leave behind in life". However, others, like Patricia Lennox, feel that "the past is what you take with you". You decide. Can you really understand the past by simply viewing an object or are most museums (the real type and the kind you might have in your home) full of objects that are unable to tell their stories without an all-knowing narrator?
This book follows the life of Ruby Lennox from conception onward: "I exist! I am conceived to the chimes of midnight on the mantelpiece in the room across the hall." From this intriguing beginning, the book draws you in. You immediately fall in love with Ruby, her flustered mother Bunty, and her quirky English family. Each chapter that takes place in the present generation of the Lennox family mentions an "exhibit" item from the "Lennox family museum." These are listed as footnotes. However, the footnote takes you to the next chapter where you learn a bit of Lennox family history surrounding the exhibit item. For example, the pink daisy-shaped button (the above Exhibit A) popped off of Alice Barker's dress only a few days before she "died giving birth" to Ruby's grandmother. It was later found and kept in a button box for years before Ruby's sister found it.
A lot of family secrets are bound up in the exhibits of the "Lennox family museum". One in particular deals with the death of Ruby's mysteriously unmentioned sister. Another deals with the father of an unmarried family member's child. Still another deals with the identity of the mysterious late-night phone caller that never says a word. Every family has its secrets and the author is careful not to give enough hints to give away the family secrets until the end of the book.
I simply loved this book. A fellow book-lover suggested that I read it. I was not disappointed. The characters were colorful and the author keeps up a certain level of suspense throughout the novel. I was surprised to learn that this is the author's first novel since it is written in such an original format. And it makes me wonder what "exhibits" belong to my own family's "museum".