Kate Atkinson's Family Romance

Missing Mothers and Hidden Histories in Behind the Scenes at the Museum

in Critical Survey
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From her first novel, Behind the Scenes At the Museum, to her most recent, Case Histories, Kate Atkinson's fiction can be described as attempting to rewrite and revision the family. All of her novels present us with families that have been altered or reshaped in some way, usually because of the loss of a mother or a child. Her narratives are driven by the need to account for these losses: to discover the fate of the missing family members, and in the process to uncover often unpleasant family secrets. In Atkinson's fictions, the family is revealed as a disturbing place, the site of violence, resentments and jealousies as much as love and affection. At the same time, the continued return to family plots in her novels suggests that the family, regardless of its flaws, is not an institution that either she or her protagonists can easily leave behind. Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes At The Museum, like her later fiction, is both an attempt to critique and debunk received notions of family, and an exploration of familial loss and longing.