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Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate…

Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995)

by Kate Atkinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,499861,518 ()295
  1. 30
    The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Smiler69)
  2. 20
    The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (Smiler69)
  3. 00
    When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (jayne_charles)
  4. 00
    The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (hbsweet)
  5. 00
    Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (starfishian)
    starfishian: Atkinson has written books in a variety of genres, settings and topics. Human Croquet reminds me very much of Behind the Scenes; if you liked one, no doubt you will like the other.
  6. 00
    Family Baggage by Monica McInerney (KimarieBee)

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» See also 295 mentions

English (82)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (86)
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
"The past is what you leave behind in life, Ruby," she says with the smile of a reincarnated lama. "Nonsense, Patricia," I tell her as I climb on board my train. "The past's what you take with you." Page 331

Ruby Lennox is our intrepid narrator, weaving a tale that begins with her conception and all the subsequent years in between. Atkinson takes us through the stories of Ruby's family, generations of people, countless names, faces, and experiences. Secrets are revealed, memories are recovered, and at the core of it all is the relationships between people, the bonds that are broken and restored and the reality that life so exquisitely ordinary can also be painfully beautiful.

I can definitely see the hype that comes with Atkinson's books because she is one heck of a storyteller. The problem is with my ability to connect with plethora of characters in the Behind the Scenes at the Museum. There is a lot of them and there is a lot of jumping around with different times and different lives so that each time I would have to reorient myself and mentally picture which part of the family tree I've landed on. Despite all that, there were definitely moments where I marvelled at how she was able to write about rather mundane everyday living and still make it readable and enjoyable. If nothing else, it has perked my interest to read her other books for comparison to see if perhaps there I will find more connection with her characters and the stories they have to share. ( )
  jolerie | Dec 16, 2014 |
I'm very fond of Kate Atkinson, she is a splendid storyteller. Moving back and forth in time from one generation to another, the story gives us four generations in all, both World Wars and a great deal of happiness and sorrow. ( )
  Iira | Nov 9, 2014 |
In the end, it is my belief, words are the only things that can construct a world that makes sense.

If this is what Kate Atkinson's first novel is like, I am incredibly excited to explore the rest of her works. Seriously, how can someone writing their first book be this good? No, the novel isn't perfect, but it's astonishingly well crafted for someone who is apparently a novice. Atkinson creates a fascinating main character in this book, a weird, wonderful protagonist, then nests her in the stories of the other women that led to her being her, that led to her being now. There are several wonderfully crafted women here, and I'm only somewhat disappointed that I didn't get to spend more time with some of them, particularly her early relatives. I'd rather not spend much time with her mum though. The story also contains a mystery of sorts, though it's reasonably easy to guess if you think about it for long enough.

I have maybe two minor nitpicks about the story. The first is the “twist”. Like many others have said, while I found the twist easy enough to guess, the whole situation is pretty implausible. While I can just about buy Ruby having blocked out her sister's existence due to PTSD or whatever, I can't really buy the whole attitude of the family where they just never speak about her again and manage never to reveal to Ruby until fairly late in the game that she ever had a sister.

My second problem was that the end of the story seemed a tad rushed. There's all sorts of stuff that happens in Ruby's life that I'd liked to have seen more of, and I think this is that rare novel that could actually do with a few more pages, rather than a few less.

Anyway, brilliant stuff. I own Life After Life and I'll definitely be giving it a read soon based on this. I give Behind the Scenes at the Museum nine out of ten.
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
A highly original, tragicomic family story spanning a century of misadventure and misfortune. Ruby, the primary narrator, has a sharp eye and a sharper wit. She does not suffer fools gladly and her family is rife with them. I enjoyed this book tremendously, start to finish, and only felt, as others did, that it lost a bit of momentum near the end. Not a lot, just a bit. Looking forward to more from this author. ( )
  SonjaYoerg | Oct 1, 2014 |
God I love Kate Atkinson's writing. And her sense of humor. And her wry wit. And her sense of history. Oh let's face it, I love Kate Atkinson. And this polished novel was her debut novel?? Can that be right? Of course I read and loved [Life After Life] but that didn't prepare me for a debutnovel that exudes shades of Dickens and had me furiously turning pages well into the night.

The story is narrated by Ruby Lennox and who better to tell the story of her life as well as that of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and sundry other relatives. Ruby’s family, much like yours, mine and everybody else’s, is littered with rogues, crooks, cheats and scoundrels. As Atkinson moves the narrative back and forth in time, across the twentieth century, she drops one tidbit after another that attest to her narrative wiliness. Ruby’s mother, Bunty, is such a rich, vibrant character (although not a contender for “Mother of the Year”) and Atkinson plays her for all she’s worth:

”I love the smell of paraffin heaters, so warm and dangerous. ‘Be careful,’ Bunty warns automatically. In another life Bunty was related to Joan of Arc, constantly alert to the possibilities of fire….Paraffin heaters are even more hazardous than stakes to riches, and they never occur in a sentence without a cautionary warning attached. None of us….could be within five feet of one of the Shop heaters without being in danger of conflagration. The coal fire in the living-room is treated similarly and kept guarded day and night (lit or unlit); matches are lethal, of course; the burners on the gas cooker are alive and trying to grab you as you pass by; cigarettes are struggling to drop and smolder----and as for spontaneous combustion! Well, it’s just waiting to happen.” Page 182

So that’s what this book is like: laugh out loud moments followed by a history lesson or two (the section about Ruby’s great uncles during WWI was some of the most poignant writing on that subject that I’ve ever read) with Atkinson setting a frantic pace throughout the narrative. Pure delight from beginning to end and very highly recommended. ( )
10 vote brenzi | May 2, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate Atkinsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jameson, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peterson, MarieForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torndahl, LenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I exist!
The past's what you take with you.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312150601, Paperback)

"I exist!" exclaims Ruby Lennox upon her conception in 1951, setting the tone for this humorous and poignant first novel in which Ruby at once celebrates and mercilessly skewers her middle-class English family. Peppered with tales of flawed family traits passed on from previous generations, Ruby's narrative examines the lives in her disjointed clan, which revolve around the family pet shop. But beneath the antics of her philandering father, her intensely irritable mother, her overly emotional sisters, and a gaggle of eccentric relatives are darker secrets--including an odd "feeling of something long forgotten"--that will haunt Ruby for the rest of her life. Kate Atkinson earned a Whitbread Prize in 1995 for this fine first effort.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In her profoundly moving, uniquely comic debut, Kate Atkinson introduces readers to the mind and world of Ruby Lennox, born above a pet shop in York at the halfway point of the twentieth century, and determined to understand both the family that precedes her and the life that awaits her. Taking her own conception as her starting point, the irrepressible Ruby narrates a story of four generations of women, from her great-grandmother's affair with a French photographer, to her mother's unfulfilled dreams of Hollywood glamour, to her young sister's efforts to upstage the Queen on Coronation Day. Hurtling in and out of both World Wars, economic downfalls, the onset of the permissive '60s, and up to the present day, Ruby paints a rich and vivid portrait of family heartbreak and happiness.… (more)

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