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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family Secrets
A charming book that begins with the conception of Ruby Lennox (told in her own voice) and moves through her sometimes heartbreaking life. Significant capsules of the lives of women who influence her life (her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother) are woven in.
This is a British novel, told in a British voice that is at times difficult to understand (not...
Published on Oct. 12 2000 by noznabuk

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not for me
Ruby Lennox narrates her own life story from the moment of conception. She lives with her family above their pet store in York in the 50's. She reminisces about endless housework, weddings and funerals, and reveals long hidden family secrets. The narration is accompanied by many threads (footnotes) that run through four generations (great-grandmother, grandmother, uncles,...
Published on Aug. 1 2007 by Toni Osborne


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not for me, Aug. 1 2007
By 
Toni Osborne "The Way I See It" (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
Ruby Lennox narrates her own life story from the moment of conception. She lives with her family above their pet store in York in the 50's. She reminisces about endless housework, weddings and funerals, and reveals long hidden family secrets. The narration is accompanied by many threads (footnotes) that run through four generations (great-grandmother, grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins) and their struggles through the 19th century and the two World Wars that followed

This novel is extremely complex, very multi layered; you go back and forth through the years. You can see a character dying in one chapter only to reappear in the next one; it tends to be confusing at times. This book left me with a strange feeling and it really didn't suit my type of reading. On this I prefer leaving the readers to their individual preferences.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why all the fuss????, July 17 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
If you will allow a voice of dissent here, I almost gave up on this book several times but had heard so much about it, I kept plodding, in the hope it would get better. It didn't. It's badly structured, full of grammatical errors, has too many irrelevant characters and a fairly uninteresting plot. It seems that Atkinson had two ideas- a historical novel and a 20th century soap opera, neither of which was worthy of a full novel, so she threw them in together and came up with this. The characters were too thinly drawn for me to care about and the end of the book suddenly introduces new characters and story lines when it should be drawing to a close. A good editor would have helped - a little. If you really want to read a quality Brtish woman writer, try Rose Tremain- or anyone!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story but her style of writing can be very confusing., March 14 1999
By 
Whale Lady "jnrisk" (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the story and her dark humor, Atkinson's style of writing with continual flash backs, fast forwards, the jumps to present time was like wandering through a maze. Some characters appeared early on and were not mentioned again until midway through the book leaving the reader to wonder "who are these people".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family Secrets, Oct. 12 2000
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
A charming book that begins with the conception of Ruby Lennox (told in her own voice) and moves through her sometimes heartbreaking life. Significant capsules of the lives of women who influence her life (her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother) are woven in.
This is a British novel, told in a British voice that is at times difficult to understand (not knowing the jargon and the "mixed up" quotation marks) that moves from turn of the century (20th) through two World Wars to the 60s and then present day.
There is a secret in Ruby's family--one involving Ruby, but kept from her. There are hints from cousins, overheard remarks from aunties, but Ruby dismisses then as "confusion"--people mixing up the events of her family history. But following a bitter accusation, she searches for the shoeless shoebox in her mother's closet, she knows she has confirmation of an evil deed.
When the secret is revealed, she confronts her dying mother: why was it never spoken of? Ruby then learns of her mother's sorrow and protective love.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The brilliant story of a family unhinged, March 23 2004
By 
S. Becker "sminismoni" (Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
In this book, the fictional Ruby Lennox reflects on her childhood and her family - her bizarre parents and strange, self-absorbed sisters, and ofcourse the small (and large) events that punctuate their lives. I found this dysfunctional family, who didn't seem to want to be a family (but were forced to anyway), really fascinating.
Reading this book, it isn't until the end that you realise what Ruby finally realises: that the individuals in families don't have to get along, they don't have to like eachother, they don't even have to take the same paths in life. But they will always have shared experiences (even if they had no choice in the matter), and somehow this is an indelible bond.
The anecdotes in the book are relayed with genuine feeling - as another reader has said, "tragi-comical" in their subject matter. The characters are brilliantly portrayed - amusing, quirky, selfish people who somehow still manage to have a bond with eachother (though they scarcely realise it). And the reflection on the meaning of family is subtle, not sickening and obvious.
Put simply, this is a moving, and yet highly entertaining book. I would recommend it to anyone that wants more from fiction than a fast-paced, light read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Far too much work expected of the reader., March 8 2014
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
The protagonist’s story, Ruby Lennox, starts at conception and finishes in her senior years. Her family history is explored in snippets back to her great-grandmother. The format alternates between her life and her family’s history. Ruby’s life is followed more or less chronologically, but her family history bounces between characters and time periods. The attempt at a multi-layered story intertwining her family history with world history is ambitious but not very successful. Each generation is filled with multiple characters and while it is intriguing to see them die in one segment only to reappear for a more fully examined description of their character, their relationships with other characters and how their behavior impacts future generations, it is tiresome to have to connect the out of order chapters to piece together a full picture of the extended family. My overwhelming feeling about the book was that it was very cluttered and I felt as if I was being buffeted about on a rocky boat.

The writing style is engaging and the novel has its charming, funny, moving and suspenseful moments but I found that the alternating format on top of the non-linear historical progression for Ruby’s family history made it more effort than it was worth to try to stay engaged in the story. Also, too many of the story lines are silly or improbable. I can tolerate a few jaw dropping revelations, but the number of surprises is just too many to be believable even in this multi-generational story. Some may find that a creative approach, I think it demonstrates a lack of creativity when a writer has to repeatedly resort to scandal or tragedy to move the story along. While not a saga in terms of the length, a genealogy tree should have been available for the reader to keep track of the generations. If you decide to read this, do it on an iPad so you can easily locate a previous passage that will help you make sense of a new revelation much later in the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars every word, every page was a joy, July 24 2013
By 
kaptaink (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
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I've enjoyed every one of Kate's novels, with this one the last I ended up reading. The novel was a great read and thought provoking. I highly recommend.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars In this book, the plot does NOT exist!, Aug. 9 1999
By 
Julia Kronk (Florida) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
When I read the reviews of this book, I thought, "How neat to start a book with the words I EXIST". I thought certainly the book would be about the character making the statement. I suppose in a roundabout way, the book may be about Ruby, but mostly I found it a rambling, pointless family history. My own personal journal entries for the past ten years are more interesting.
On a positive note, I thought the writers style was kind of neat, and I found the material easy to read, and sometimes humorous. If she had just added some meaning or point to her story, I think I would have loved it. But, as it was, I got to the end and it was so bad, I swear I heard a "phhht".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exhibit A: Family Secrets, May 18 2003
By 
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
When you see the title of this book, you immediately come to the conclusion that this book must be about a little girl who's family owns a museum.
This museum turns out to be just like the museum that YOUR OWN family owns.
Exhibits at the "Lennox family museum" include:
A. A pink, daisy-shaped, glass button
B. A lucky rabbit's foot
C. A George VI coronation teaspoon
D. A bright, artificial smile
E. Bunty's unbearably sad childhood
F. Rabbit-shaped clouds hanging in the sky like zepplins
G. "Mind your boots, Lily"
H. A plane in a death spin
I. Your sister says not to worry
J. The silver locket
K. Thinking about home
Strange exhibits for a museum, don't you think?
These "exhibits" are simply items and memories belonging to several generations of the Lennox family. Each "exhibit" carries with it a history and a memory that the casual onlooker cannot fathom. Some people, like Ruby Lennox, feel that "the past is what you leave behind in life". However, others, like Patricia Lennox, feel that "the past is what you take with you". You decide. Can you really understand the past by simply viewing an object or are most museums (the real type and the kind you might have in your home) full of objects that are unable to tell their stories without an all-knowing narrator?
This book follows the life of Ruby Lennox from conception onward: "I exist! I am conceived to the chimes of midnight on the mantelpiece in the room across the hall." From this intriguing beginning, the book draws you in. You immediately fall in love with Ruby, her flustered mother Bunty, and her quirky English family. Each chapter that takes place in the present generation of the Lennox family mentions an "exhibit" item from the "Lennox family museum." These are listed as footnotes. However, the footnote takes you to the next chapter where you learn a bit of Lennox family history surrounding the exhibit item. For example, the pink daisy-shaped button (the above Exhibit A) popped off of Alice Barker's dress only a few days before she "died giving birth" to Ruby's grandmother. It was later found and kept in a button box for years before Ruby's sister found it.
A lot of family secrets are bound up in the exhibits of the "Lennox family museum". One in particular deals with the death of Ruby's mysteriously unmentioned sister. Another deals with the father of an unmarried family member's child. Still another deals with the identity of the mysterious late-night phone caller that never says a word. Every family has its secrets and the author is careful not to give enough hints to give away the family secrets until the end of the book.
I simply loved this book. A fellow book-lover suggested that I read it. I was not disappointed. The characters were colorful and the author keeps up a certain level of suspense throughout the novel. I was surprised to learn that this is the author's first novel since it is written in such an original format. And it makes me wonder what "exhibits" belong to my own family's "museum".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book!, April 29 2003
By 
M. M. MacTier "Dalene" (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel (Paperback)
Every now and then one comes across a book that is so brilliant that you want to recommend it to everyone you know. Behind the Scenes at the Museum is one of those books. I enjoyed every bit of it. It is witty, clever, and entertaining. It is one of those books that I couldn't put down, but wanted to make it last at the same time. The story starts at Ruby, the narrator's conception and takes us through her life into adult. It is very cleverly written to cover the life stories of four generations. It took some paging back to keep up with all the characters, but the journey was well worth the paging. It is a novel about ordinary people, about their ordinary life's and their ordinary flaws. Kate Atkinson earned a Whitbread Prize in 1995 for this fine first effort. I highly recommend this one.
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Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel
Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Novel by Kate Atkinson (Paperback - Nov. 12 1999)
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