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4.3 out of 5 stars311
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 8 July 2012
I bought this book on a recommendation from a friend.
It took no effort to get into. I absolutely loved it...the tangled tale of the family intrigued me and kept me on my toes.I won't go into the story..I don't want to spoil it for you.

It was funny in places and sad in others. The characters were solid and believable.
I could have read it no time flat, but I 'rationed' myself so that the pleasure of reading it would last longer(how sad am I then?).
I was really sorry to get to the last page. One of the best reads I have had in ages.
I will certainly be reading this book again.
I heartily recomment it.
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on 22 February 2013
A fascinating study of a dysfunctional family spanning generations and examining the complex relationships that develop. No rose tinted glasses here as the past is examined with clinical accuracy.....
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on 17 March 2006
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. The Footnotes tie up unexplained information mentioned within the chapters, exploring the history of her family over the previous two generations further, starting with Ruby's great-grandmother Alice, who supposedly died giving birth. Although I liked the footnotes as a unique style of writing, they can cause the reader to lose the thread of the story somewhat, particularly if you are reading slowly.
The book is fluently written and poetic throughout. It is imaginative, thought provoking, hearth warming and funny. A lovely example of the poetic style of the story comes from Ruby's theory of the afterlife. She believes there must be a Lost Property Cupboard where all things we have ever lost have been kept for us - every button, every tooth, every lost library book and spare pen. Lost tempers and patience and innocence and the dreams we forget on waking…. A beautiful analogy.
As for the ending, it is unexpected and shocking, cleverly tying together previous events, fitting together the pieces of the puzzle.
I loved this book and I give it five stars. It is likely to be preferred by the ladies than the gents, although it is suitable for any ages. At 380 pages the book is a nice length, not too long but allowing time for the reader to get to know the characters and to understand Ruby's situation. It is a very British book, exploring life in the middle classes and if you are British, especially if you live in York, or the North, you simply must read it.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum was published in 1995 and it subsequently won the Whitbread prize for book of the year The novel also appears on the 2003 BBC Big Read at number 142.
Poor Ruby. Does anyone ever say that? No they don't. But they should and by the end of this book you will agree….
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on 4 July 2013
I LOVE her books. They have quirky characters, but nonetheless believably so. I love her descriptions!

I am sorry Kate if you have been around for a while and I didn't spot you, but I will be buying all your books from now on.

I love Maeve Binchy and I now have another favourite - please keep up the writing Kate, you make my life a better place!
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VINE VOICEon 15 May 2007
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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on 15 October 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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on 13 February 2014
A woven tale of family life through some dark and strangely amusing epochs. Kate's use of language gives a real depth to characters who you feel drawn to as they seem so real. Teenage angst, grown up imperfections and elderly frailties all interplay. I defy any reader not to recognise themselves or a member of their family in this enjoyable but sometimes over-sentimental tale of peri-war Yorkshire.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 March 2016
Not such a fan of a structure and was feeling a bit lost (if not a bit annoyed) with the multitude of people inhabiting the novel, but, ultimately, what a pleasant entertaining read! I nearly missed my train stop so was I engrossed in the book! "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" was Kate Atkinson's first (!) novel and you can see how her trademark style is emerging.

"Behind the Scenes..." consists of Ruby narrating her life from the conception until her "Balzac" age – although I noticed her childhood and teenage years got the bulk of the book, with "The Rest of Her Life" only given a short glimpse. And the so-called "footnotes", that kinda form a book of its own about Ruby's extended family from her great-grandmother and towards the present generation. I found this structure of the book a bit too much – with all the characters you could very easily lose track as to who is who and what decade is the action taking place in. There are so many names.

There were a couple of twists, some more interesting than the others, but personally I thought that one twist in particular, the "glimpse" of which we see in the middle of the book and could easily ignore, is revealed in the end, and I just thought, wow, what a structure!

All in all, this multi-generation family saga is entertaining, if not a bit confusing, and will certainly be enjoyed by Kate Atkinson fans! Cautiously recommended. I am certainly encouraged to buy more of Ms Atkinson's books!
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on 28 February 2015
I hadn't ready anything by Atkinson before starting this book. I was totally enthralled by the wonderful language and the unusual method of telling the story of this family. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and have now ordered more. Definitely A GOOD READ!
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on 23 June 2014
I liked this book enormously. It was creative in its style and captured elements of innocent childhood alongside the horrors of it all too. Its composition was thoughtful and flowed back and to over generations which lead to a wider understanding of the psychologies of individuals, families and their histories. I will probably re-read it too and some point to make sure I got the most from it.
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