Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Winner of the Whitbread (Costa) Book of the Year

Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn’t married.

Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck with three little girls in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster.

Ruby tells the story of The Family, from the day at the end of the nineteenth century when a travelling French photographer catches frail, beautiful Alice and her children, like flowers in amber, to the startling, witty and memorable events of Ruby’s own life.

“The past is a cupboard full of light and all you have to do is find the key that opens the door.”

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Author’s note

Discover the story behind the story of Behind the Scenes at the Museum – how the book came to be, the original inspiration, and sources.


Please note: This does contain spoilers so if you haven’t yet read the book, then you might prefer to do this first.

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Download a reading guide and discussion questions for Behind the Scenes at the Museum to support your Book Club or Reading Group.


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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, Author of The Mirror and the Light

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.


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

Enchanting. It hops with sprightly omniscence from past to future and back again.

The Sunday Times

A really gripping, emotionally satisfying family saga written with warmth and wit. I’ve re-read it countless times.


A first novel written so fluently and wittily that I sailed through it as though blown by an exhilarating wind; a first novel with a touch so light I only felt its truth and sadness after I’d finished it. It lifted my spirits enormously. I loved it.

Margaret Forster

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