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Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate…

Behind the Scenes at the Museum (original 1995; edition 1996)

by Kate Atkinson

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3,8301001,347 (3.95)346
Title:Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Authors:Kate Atkinson
Info:Black Swan (1996), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (1995)

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    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.
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» See also 346 mentions

English (94)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (99)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
We live in a place called 'Above the Shop' which is not a strictly accurate description as both the kitchen and dining-room are on the same level as the Shop itself and the topography also includes the satellite area of the Back Yard. The Shop (a pet shop) is in one of the ancient streets that cower beneath the looming dominance of York Minster. In this street lived the first printers and the stained-glass craftsmen that filled the windows of the city with coloured light. The Ninth Legion Hispana that conquered the north marched up and down our street, the via praetoria of their great fort, before they disappeared into thin air. Guy Fawkes was born here, Dick Turpin was hung a few streets away and Robinson Crusoe, that other great hero, is also a native son of this city. Who is to say which of these is real and which a fiction?

Ruby Lennox narrates her life story beginning with her conception in 1951. Each chapter provides a window to another year in Ruby's life. Ruby defines herself in relationship to her mother, her older sisters, her father, and her extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Each chapter concludes with a footnote that anchors Ruby to her family's past in the stories of her grandmother Nell's and her mother Bunty's youths.

Up to now, my only experience with Kate Atkinson has been the Jackson Brodie novels. I liked Case Histories and loved the rest. I picked up her first novel with some trepidation. Would it live up to the Jackson Brodie novels? I'm happy to say that it exceeded my high expectations. Atkinson strikes a perfect balance between strong characters, vivid settings, and narrative pace in a distinctive voice. As she does in the Jackson Brodie novels, Atkinson follows chains of small events that propel characters toward major events that will change the course of her characters' lives. Atkinson is well on her way to becoming my favorite currently active author. ( )
3 vote cbl_tn | Oct 6, 2016 |
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.
  thebookmagpie | Aug 7, 2016 |
A wonderful interweaving of several generations of the one family. The things that affect each of them. The portrayal of individuals from vibrant children to old doddery folk. The random things that survive in memory and as mementoes. The unexpectedness of life (and death). Essentially it is Ruby's story, a child in a post-war pet shop, but it is also her mother's siblings and her grandmother's story. ( )
  devilish2 | Jul 17, 2016 |
Thought this was wonderful. Combining a Yorkshire childhood with a lovely writing style - really involving.
  ellohull | Feb 10, 2016 |
Kate Atkinson's first novel

Ruby Lennox first speaks to us at the moment of her conception, and from then on, she is a funny, irreverent and heartbreaking narrator. Atkinson plays with time, as she goes back to explore the stories of the generations which lead to Ruby, and her terrible, damaged and damaging family. Extraordinarily good. ( )
  rglossne | Feb 9, 2016 |
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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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:32 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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