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Behind the Scenes at the Museum [Hardcover]

Kate Atkinson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Mar 1995
Whitbread Book of the Year, 1995. Ruby was born while her father was in the pub. Her mother, Bunty, had never wanted to marry him, and dreamt of being swept off to America by a romantic hero, but instead, was stuck in a flat with her three children. This is the family's story.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; IST edition (9 Mar 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385405952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385405959
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her four bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. Her latest novel Life After Life was shortlisted for the Women's (formerly Orange) Prize, the South Bank Sky Arts Literature Award, and won the 2014 Costa Novel Award. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List, and was voted Waterstones UK Author of the Year at the 2013 Specsavers National Book Awards.

Photography © Martin Hunter

Product Description


"Delivers its jokes and its tragedies as efficiently as Dickens...outrageously funny on almost every page...will dazzle readers for years to come." (Hilary Mantel London Review of Books)

"'A debut novel of astonishing confidence and skill...Acutely observant, overflowing with good jokes, it is the work of an author who loves her characters and sets them playing with gleeful energy'" (Spectator)

"'An astounding book...without doubt one of the finest novels I have read for years'" (The Times)

"'Little short of a masterpiece...Fizzing with wit and energy, Kate Atkinson's hilarious novel made me laugh and cry'" (Daily Mail)

"'A blinding debut from a Yorkshire mother-of-two who could be Alan Bennett's baby sister...straight-up simplicity veils the depth, poignancy and poetry of her story'" (Time Out) --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Book Description

Kate Atkinson's brilliant first novel, which won the Whitbread Prize against competition from Salman Rushdie and Roy Hattersley. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended. 2 Aug 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Not many novels begin while the narrator is still in the womb, but "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" is that rare book. It tells the story of Ruby Lennox, right from the very moment of her conception, and the story, too, of her family: her disillusioned mother, Bunty; her two, very different, sisters; and, futher back, her grandparents and great-grandparents.
Atkinson perfectly balances the different narratives - we not only follow Ruby and her sisters through childhood and adolescence, but see Bunty's youthful ideals become tarnished, and empathise with Nell, Bunty's mother, and her family. The tragedies and comedies of the older stories are movingly and simply told; the portraits of women during the First World War, in particular, are well-researched and very revealing.
Throughout the novel, in fact, Atkinson acheives a superlative blend of tragedy and comedy; the poignant moments balanced against the light-heartedness of some of Ruby's stories. Anecdotes like the "World cup wedding" and the "holiday from hell", especially, are brilliantly and wittily told, and Ruby's extended family is populated by perfectly-crafted bizarre characters.
It is at the end of the book, however, where Atkinson's talent really shows. All the pieces of Ruby's life and identity finally slot together: we finally see what really happened to Nell's mother Alice; the end of everybody's stories; and, most, importantly, the central mystery of Ruby's life, revealed so cleverly that you wonder why you hadn't worked it out before. A modern classic.
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90 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Gem! 15 May 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I picked this book up as part of a 3 for 2 offer in a bookshop when I had already chosen my first two and was in a rush - I didn't even read the blurb on the back, I just vaguely remembered someone telling me how good it was.

What an absolute treat then to find that this ended up being the best of the lot - infact I can honestly say that I haven't enjoyed a book so much in a long time (and I read alot). From the very first paragraph I knew I was going to enjoy Behind the Scenes at the Museum; this book made me laugh and cry. The characters were all so real that I was desperate to know more about them, and I just love the way that the book jumps from present day to another time in the past of this strange but wonderfully fascinating family.

The story starts with the conception of Ruby Lennox in a drunken fumble with her parents in their House Above the Shop in York. Ruby narrates even before her birth and sets the scene with her family - a very disfunctional one at that. The second chapter then goes back in time to Ruby's Great-Grandmother, Alice and her 5 children and from here on in we flit back and forth between Ruby's life and those of her ancestors. All the characters in this book are so 3 dimensional it made me greedy to find out more about them and I found myself thinking about them even when I wasn't reading at the time.

I'm so glad I picked this book up and I am now desperate to read Kate Atkinson's other books. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book and can't recommend it highly enough.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful book! 15 Oct 2003
What a wonderful book! Kate Atkinson has such a talent for bringing her characters to life - you feel you know them so well, you feel they MUST have existed. It's a book that can read over and over again and gain so much enjoyment from it (believe me, I've read it six times). Parts of it made me laugh out loud and others literally made me cry - some aspects are heartbreakingly poigniant. I'm a great reader, and without doubt this is the best book I've ever read. Ruby's tale will stay with you for a long, long time. A book to be savoured - having read it once, you can re-read chapters individually - it just gets better and better. All of you who havn't read it yet - what a treat you have in store! Kate Atkinson - what a wonderful talent!
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94 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rubies and Pearls 17 Mar 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Behind the Scenes at the Museum was Yorkshire mother of two, Kate Atkinson's first novel and this wonderful book it is definitely one to be celebrated.
Kate Atkinson was born in York and she chose the old walled City as the location for the tale of teenage Ruby Lennox and her family. The book starts from the moment of Ruby's conception in 1951, a moment grudgingly obliged by her mother, Bunty. Ruby starts the tale as a growing foetus, a baby inside her mother's womb. Boy, it sure did start to get uncomfortable in there after nine months, there sure wasn't a lot of room. Ruby was pushed into the world while her father George was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a women wearing a D-cup that he wasn't married.
Ruby tells the story of her family exploring complex family relationships, births, weddings, divorce, death, secrets and lies. She spends her childhood trying to placate her mother and playing with elder sister's Gillian and Patrica, under the shadow of the Minister, as they trundle along the old pebble-stone streets and in and out of the pet shop, the family business.
When she is just 5 Ruby is whisked away to stay with her Auntie Babs. She has no idea why, although she's sure that it's not a holiday. She has nightmares and begins to sleepwalk. When she returns no explanation is offered and her mother seems even more unhappy….
Atkinson divides Behind the Scenes at the Museum into Chapters and Footnotes: the Chapters focus on Ruby and her direct family life with her mother and father and her sisters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written and composed - but why
Brilliantly written and composed - but why? Very clever in its concept and full of amazing imagination and description but I was left wondering what was the point of it all when I... Read more
Published 3 days ago by R. F. B. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars A family saga with a difference
Before picking up this book I had already read three books by Kate Atkinson, all in her Jackson Brodie series. I enjoyed the quirkiness of all of them. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Noel
3.0 out of 5 stars A disjointed story of miserable folk
While this novel is written in an engaging style, with flashes of humour, it is seriously flawed. Kate Atkinson runs two timelines in parallel - the life story of the narrator... Read more
Published 21 days ago by London Lass
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in places but not great
I didn't like the start of this book and almost didn't stick with it but just in time I started to enjoy it and became curious. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Tom's Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book.
Arrived promptly. Fantastic book.
Published 1 month ago by Hayley Frankham
2.0 out of 5 stars 335 pages that felt like 1000. After having read 'Life after Life' by...
335 pages that felt like 1000. After having read 'Life after Life' by the same author, which I absolutely loved, this book was a terrible disappointment. Read more
Published 1 month ago by !Zabbu
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book - Wish there more like it.
First class book once again from Kate Atkinson. Truly wonderful larger than life, of the period, characters. You can just see the house, the clothes the emotions running high. Read more
Published 1 month ago by oldmolviejunkie
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought it was a great read but I had to pay attention to the ...
I thought it was a great read but I had to pay attention to the switch between the different generations of the family.....Loved the humour and the pathos. Read more
Published 1 month ago by dorothy innes
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Very complicated and moves around a lot. Difficult to keep track of the time frame and characters. Sadly, just not entertaining .
Published 1 month ago by Buyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book throughly good read Atkinson writes funny and moving as always
Published 1 month ago by JA
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