Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Behind the Scenes at the Museum” as Want to Read:
Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  15,570 ratings  ·  1,401 reviews
Ruby Lennox begins narrating her life at the moment of conception, and from there takes us on a whirlwind tour of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of an English girl determined to learn about her family and its secrets.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 12th 1999 by Picador (first published 1995)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Behind the Scenes at the Museum, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
David
God, I can't even begin to express my depth of loathing for this book. I forced myself through to within about 60 pages of the end, but then I just couldn't bear it any more. I just didn't want to know any more about the vile people in this ridiculous family with all their dark, dirty, entirely predictable secrets.

Gaaaah! I left it behind on a plane somewhere. Should have attached a toxic warning label.
Maciek
Kate Atkinson’s first novel won the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1995, beating such heavyweights as Salman Rushdie and his The Moor's Last Sigh. Behind the Scenes at the Museum us ab ambitious book: a sprawling saga which spans decades of events and covers several generations of characters.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum opens with the birth of its all-seeing narrator, Ruby Lennox, who begins her narration literally from conception (the first chapter begins with Ruby proclaiming "I exist! at th...more
Kim

My only experience of Kate Atkinson's writing until now has been three of the four novels in her Jackson Brodie series, which starts with Case Histories. Quirky is the obvious adjective to describe Atkinson's writing. It has lots of dry humour and sardonic wit, intricate plotting and random connections and coincidences deliberately used to advance the narrative. There's a certain flippancy in the tone which brings into sharp relief the often very serious themes with which Atkinson deals.

This is...more
Siria
This is a first novel, and it does show in a couple of places--the early chapters struggle to maintain the plausibility of such an adult authorial voice being refracted through the experience and understanding of a child, and there's at least one plot twist towards the end of the novel which I thought it could well have done without. Despite that, I really loved this book: the humour of it is just right for me, balanced right on the edge of tragedy. The prose achieves moments of real loveliness,...more
Trish
This is very reminiscent of "Stone Diaries," but it has its own unique flavor. And stylistically it establishes the technique of intertwined stories that Atkinson's later novel, Case Histories, will also employ.

Ruby Lennox narrates her own life from the moment of her conception. She is a remarkably perceptive and knowledgeable zygote, and then she's a rather neglected little girl, and finally she's an unhappy teen-ager and a woman embarking on The Rest of Her Life.

Each chapter describing Ruby's...more
Lisa Vegan
May 13, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: if you have a warped sense of humor and enjoy novels about families
I enjoyed this book much more than most of the members of my book club. I loved Ruby, the narrator, especially as a child, and I thought that the intricate story was very clever and hilarious. The funniest parts were when Ruby was scathingly commenting about her family members, especially her sisters and parents. Terribly traumatic events happen to this family but they’re told in such a light and breezy manner (by Ruby during and before her actual lifetime) that I didn’t find the book at all dep...more
JSou
Is this really the same Kate Atkinson that wrote the so-so mystery novel, Case Histories?? What happened there? This was fan-freaking-tastic. Crazy family secrets, history, motherhood, war...I loved it.
Rick
Atkinson’s first novel is a multi-generational family tale layered on to the story from conception to adulthood of one Ruby Lennox. Atkinson has since written another four novels, the last two at least of which are mystery-thrillers, though this one is decidedly not. More a domestic melodrama with some late, though well-seeded plot twists. The crimes here are all of the hearth and heart, not of the prosecutorial sort, but considerable nonetheless. Some parts of this book are incredibly well-writ...more
Isabella
One of the more enjoyable book I read this year. I had no trouble getting into it whatsoever and liked the story from the get-go.

*may contain SPOILERS*






The book is rather morbid and ocasionally very sarcastic (and so am I!) but I had a huge smile on my face through most of it, although at times I felt a bit guilty about enjoying myself. If the writting style wasn't that light-hearted it would be a very, very sad story.

Things like Ruby (the narrator) actually considering splitting up her dead sist...more
Claude
This is one of those books i just can't get thru. The first 100 pages had so many characters, brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts, etc...Too many names and characters to keep track of.
The second part of the book is way more interesting and funny when the character Ruby comes into play. The family is very corky and very colorful. However, i find myself never wanting to continue to read and finish this book. I also can't wait to get to read Soldier of A Great War or Middlesex.
I realize that eve...more
Liz
I really liked this book. I have read other books by this author, and have enjoyed them, too. This one is my favorite of hers, as well as being her first novel. The narrator is telling the story of growing up in a pretty dysfunctional family, and gives hints along the way about a surprise the reader finds at the end of the book. There is a lot of unhappiness in this story, as seen from the point of view of the narrator (through most of the book she is a very young girl), and it would be interest...more
Dolly
I found this book while passing through England and I thought it would be a good read. I am so glad I discovered it. The story weaves its way backward and forward through time, tracing the path of several people's lives - their loves, their deaths, their experiences. I love that it primarily tracks the women of one family and it's fascinating to see the way in which their lives intertwine.

It takes place primarily in England in the early 1950s and 1960s, but the story reaches from the late 1890s...more
Juliana
Mar 04, 2008 Juliana rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anglophiles, war buffs, sisters.
I loved this book so much that I slowed down in the middle for fear of finishing it. That was probably a mistake because there are a ton of characters to keep track of and random things are always happening to them, and I'm sure there were a few witty twists that I missed. By the time I finished, I just wanted to start over again.
Even though the story follows a tragic family, Kate Atkinson keeps her sense of humor and I caught myself laughing out loud during death scenes and mourning periods. At...more
Erin Malone
This is Atkinson's first novel, and I loved it for its complicated, funny coming-of-age story. The narrator's voice is right on, and led me through all the twists of the book.

Thanks to a memory lapse, I picked up this book again and though I recognized I'd already read it, I liked it just as much the second time. I think that's the mark of a very good book. --3/31/13
Megan Baxter
Behind the Scenes at the Museum is really a very good book, marred by one gimmick that frustrates me because it's so unnecessary to the story Kate Atkinson is telling.

For the most part, however, I enjoyed this one immensely. Atkinson has a knack for turns of phrase that are amusing and piercing and unexpected, and I loved these in particular. The story is meandering, and weaves back and forth in time, but it was the sort of meander I greatly enjoy.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdra...more
Ms.pegasus
Jan 04, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves well-written fiction
Shelves: fiction
The year is 1951 and Atkinson gives us Ruby, our unconventional, imaginative narrator who greets us with the exuberant opening revelation: “I exist!” At this moment, our narrator has just been conceived, deep within her mother Bunty's womb. The environs provide sustenance but little else. Instead, Ruby treats us to a ring-side seat to the endless rounds of discontent played out between Bunty and her husband George. An unassuming observer, Ruby gives us the benefit of her droll commentary, able t...more
AmoRead
This British author is quickly becoming a favorite. Her brutally honest depictions of childhood in a pre-war dysfunctional family system are insightful and engaging. I found myself simultaneously annoyed by these people and endeared to them. The intergenerational story lines illustrate beautifully how misguided family rules, beliefs and patterns are easily passed down from one generation to the next. I love the way she lets you in on what is going to happen next, so you can focus on what's going...more
Elaine
I feel like a Grinch when I read the other reviews. all raving with praise. I gave it 3 stars because it is a good read, but it's far from being all that wonderful. It starts with an embryo at the moment the sperm penetrates the ovum. The ovum introduces herself and describes the family she'll be a part of. Of course, anti-abortionists will love this, since they preach that a fertilized egg is already a person. Well, it isn't. It has no brain, no senses, no consciousness, nothing. Just a sperm t...more
Boof
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; th...more
sandra
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The stories of Ruby’s life and family history are adeptly intertwined through the use of footnotes. Each chapter of Ruby’s life contains a footnote that is later illuminated in a sub-chapter giving you more of an insight as to the significance of an object or phrase. Atkinson successfully blends four generations of the Lennox family through this method taking you through two World Wars and various battles closer to Ruby’s own family.
The use of the footnotes acted...more
Suzanne
Behind the Scenes of the Museum is a disappointment. I began with the Brodie mysteries and was won over. Brodie is an endearing, hapless detective who just walks into intrigue. He picks up a dog and cases and doesn't leave until everyone is in their rightful place. I was also impressed with Life After Life. I decided to read Atkinson's debut and break out novel. Maybe, it was the order which influenced my rating.

Ruby, the youngest of the Lenoxes is a remarkable character and sometime narrator. H...more
Jae
I finished Behind the Scenes at the Museum at 6 o'clock this morning. I have to give it an enthusiastic four stars out of five (but then again, I love books about messed up families). Kate Atkinson has a lot to live up to after this first novel.

The story spans the family history of Ruby Lennox, starting with her great grandmother in pre-WWI England and ending with her and her sisters, but not in chronological order. Atkinson introduces so many characters in this relatively short book that you th...more
Micaela
"Albert didn't really believe in death. The dead had just gone away somewhere and were going to come back sooner or later-they were waiting in a shadowy room that no one could see the door to, and being ministered to by his mother, who was almost certainly na angel by now."(pag.62)

"Sometimes I would like to cry. I close my eyes. Why weren't we designed so that we can close our ears as well? ( Perhaps because we would never open them." ( pag. 320)

"I have been to the world's end and back and now I...more
vladimir
Sep 21, 2007 vladimir rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of unconventional novels, quirky narrators...
"I am a jewel. I am a drop of blood. I am Ruby Lennox"

Taking a bit of inspiration from that meta-fictional classic Tristram Shandy, Atkinson's irrepressible creation/narrator, Ruby, begins her story with her own conception.

From there it's tales of familial woe and dysfunction; tragedy with an eccentric and uplifting undercurrent. Footnotes cleverly fill the gaps in the generational record; tiny mysteries abound, yet they aren't the point of the story--it's about 'British-ness' and the generation...more
Kate
This is a story in which most of the characters are trapped in dreary lives, cursing their fates, filled with regrets, having their lives ruined (or ended) by world wars, and treating each other horribly -- and I was surprised at how deeply pleasurable it all was to read about. I couldn't stop rooting for our main character, I couldn't stop reading it, and I couldn't stand the fact that eventually the book would end. Atkinson's writing is observant and funny, and in this books she makes dire cir...more
Deborah Ledford
Another fascinating journey by Kate Atkinson. This one isn't a mystery, rather a jewel of a literary novel that takes the reader on a multi-generational journey. This one took a bit to get into, but I soon picked up on the rhythm of the piece. Every passage is crafted to perfection and features a few characters you will love to hate, but most of them you will flat out love.
Кремена Михайлова
В началото ми се стори, че малко тенденциозно се разказва по-грубовато, дори цинично (особено от името на едно дете). Но постепенно свикнах с тона, с цялото семейство, каквито и да са. А и да не би всички семейства да са милички – сигурно поне в 50 % от семействата се поддържа подобно „настроение“. Освен това говорим за Англия от миналия век. Може с това да обиждам, да обобщавам неправилно, да имам предвид минали времена, но продължавам да използвам едно определение за Англия – кафява. Не само з...more
Nancy
As has occurred in the past, I am starting a review without being entirely certain of what to rate it.

I have read the Jackson Brodie books and quite enjoy the author's story-telling and writing prowess. I decided to read some of her earlier books. Firstly, I can now see that the general air of melancholia and fate that (to my mind) seems to suffuse the Brodie books is a part of the author's style, at least based on my impression of this book.

The structure of the book certainly allows the author...more
Lormac
Well, I think I have found a new author I like! I saw this book on CD at the library, and knowing it would be months until I could get my hands on Atkinson's new, extremely well-reviewed novel "Life After Life", I picked this one up. I am so glad I did!

"Behind the Scenes at the Museum" is a lousy title,IMHO, as it does not give the prospective reader any idea what this book is about, or even relate to the plot except in passing (i.e., there is a museum in York where most of this book is set).

But...more
Leanne Hengesbach
Initially I downloaded only the first half of this book--so I thought I was almost done when it was really only half over. A few times I wished I had an actually book so I could go back & look up one of the ancestors but by the end I kept them straight. So many of the young men died in war. I was quite distraught each time. And the DOGS in war. It was heartbreaking. I'm a little younger than the narrator but I remember childhood when children were more "taken for granted" than today. Ruby's...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
curious about this book 21 141 Sep 02, 2014 12:40PM  
  • The L-Shaped Room (Jane Graham, #1)
  • Sunset Song
  • Eve Green
  • The Millstone
  • Day
  • Our Spoons Came from Woolworths
  • Sour Sweet
  • Music and Silence
  • Sleepovers
  • Notes from an Exhibition
  • Excellent Women
  • Small Island
  • A Spell of Winter
  • Any Human Heart
  • Daughters Of The House
  • Room Temperature
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • The Eye in the Door (Regeneration, #2)
10015
Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories,...more
More about Kate Atkinson...
Life After Life Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, #1) When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3) Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie, #4) One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie, #2)

Share This Book

“In the end, it is my belief, words are the only things that can construct a world that makes sense.” 32 likes
“I have been to the world's end and back and now I know what I would put in my bottom drawer .I would put my sisters. ” 11 likes
More quotes…