I picked this one up because I loved the cover of Kate Atkinson's new novel, Life after Life, and wanted to read one of her novels before its release. Overall, I liked the novel quite a bit, and really enjoyed the format. The novel's main narrator is Ruby Lennox, the youngest daughter in a working to middle class English family after World War II. The novel is both a coming of age story and a family history as each chapter is followed by a footnote, related to a person or thing mentioned in the previous section.
The novel begins in 1951 with Ruby's conception, and Ruby immediately introduces the reader to the family and its dynamics and foreshadows future events. Most of the main narrative takes place between 1951 and 1970, and Ruby's voice goes from being an almost omniprescent narrator who knows all to slowly matching her age and her actual knowledge from her perspective as the story progresses. As the novel progresses, layers and secrets are revealed as different views of events appear in the footnotes and in real life.
Most of the current family is a bit ridiculous and rather unlikable. Many of the women have certainly been disappointed in their lives, and Ruby's mother Bunty has few redeeming qualities. Ruby's sister Gillian and Patricia have very different personalities, Gillian being the cute blond child that constantly wants to be at the center of attention while Patricia is wise for her age and already shows a certain amount of disdain for her family at an young age. I actually liked the ancestors discussed in the footnotes quite a bit though many of them have rather tragic fates.
I enjoyed this one a lot but it tapered out towards the end. After a bit of a reveal, the novel quickly summarizes the next twenty years or so to get to the end. That part almost felt tacked on and certainly felt rushed after the rest of events in the novel, but I'm definitely looking forward to checking out Life After Life now.