Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A darkly humorous family saga, following the complex lives and secrets of the members of the dysfunctional Lennox family.


"Behind the Scenes at the Museum" by Kate Atkinson is a captivating and multi-generational novel that delves into the intricate lives of the members of the dysfunctional Lennox family. With a blend of historical fiction and dark humor, Atkinson takes the readers on a journey through the lives of the Lennox family, unveiling their secrets, tragedies, and triumphs. The novel offers a unique narrative style, combining the protagonist's personal experiences with the broader historical context of the 20th century.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The narrative of "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" is framed by the life of Ruby Lennox, who begins her story from the moment of her conception in 1951. The novel intertwines Ruby's personal experiences with the history of her eccentric family, spanning several generations. Through Ruby's eyes, readers gain insights into the complexities of her family's dynamics, their secrets, and the impact of historical events on their lives. Set in York, England, the story unfolds against the backdrop of the 20th century, capturing the essence of the time period through the lens of the Lennox family's experiences.


The novel primarily takes place in the city of York, England, spanning multiple decades of the 20th century. The story provides vivid descriptions of the city's evolving landscape, from the post-war era to the modern-day, offering a rich historical backdrop for the characters' lives and experiences.

Main Characters

The novel features a diverse array of characters, each with their own complexities and nuances. Here are the main characters:

Ruby LennoxThe protagonist and narrator, she provides insight into the history and dynamics of the Lennox family.
BuntyRuby's mother, who struggles with her own past and the challenges of raising a large family.
GeorgeRuby's father, an enigmatic figure with a mysterious past that casts a shadow over the family's history.
PatriciaRuby's grandmother, whose own experiences during World War II significantly influence the family's trajectory.
GillianRuby's sister, whose rebellious nature and choices impact the family's dynamics and relationships.
Uncle AubreyA charming yet troubled member of the family, whose eccentricities add a layer of complexity to the narrative.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-5: Family Origins and Secrets

The novel commences with Ruby's conception and birth, intertwining her personal experiences with the stories of her ancestors. The readers are introduced to the enigmatic members of the Lennox family, each carrying their own secrets and burdens from the past.

Chapter 6-10: World War II and Its Impact

As the narrative unfolds, the readers gain insights into the family's experiences during World War II, particularly through the eyes of Patricia, Ruby's grandmother. The impact of the war reverberates through the generations, shaping the family's dynamics and relationships.

Chapter 11-15: Complex Family Dynamics

The novel delves into the intricate relationships within the Lennox family, portraying the challenges, conflicts, and moments of intimacy that define their interactions. Ruby provides a candid portrayal of the complexities that arise within the family unit.

Chapter 16-20: Secrets Unveiled

As the narrative progresses, long-held secrets and mysteries within the family begin to unravel, shedding light on the hidden truths that have shaped the lives of the Lennox family members. The revelations have a profound impact on their present and future.

Chapter 21-25: Navigating Adulthood

The readers witness Ruby and her siblings navigating the complexities of adulthood, making choices that echo the experiences of their predecessors. The novel captures the struggles and triumphs of the younger generation as they carve their paths in the world.

Chapter 26-30: Reflection and Resolution

In the final chapters, the narrative culminates in moments of reflection, resolution, and acceptance for the characters. The readers are given a deeper understanding of the family's history and the impact of their experiences on each subsequent generation.

Main Events

  1. Ruby's Conception and Birth
  2. World War II Experiences
  3. Family Conflicts and Dynamics
  4. Unveiling of Family Secrets
  5. Characters Navigating Adulthood
  6. Moments of Reflection and Resolution

Themes and Insights

Family Dynamics and Secrets

The novel delves into the intricacies of family relationships, portraying the impact of secrets, conflicts, and shared history on the dynamics within the Lennox family. Atkinson skillfully explores the complexities of familial bonds and the enduring influence of past generations on the present.

Historical Context and Evolution

Through the lens of the Lennox family's experiences, the novel provides a rich portrayal of the historical events that shaped the 20th century, particularly during World War II and its aftermath. The narrative offers insights into the evolving social, cultural, and political landscape of the time period.

Identity and Self-Discovery

Ruby's personal journey serves as a vehicle for exploring themes of identity and self-discovery. As she unravels her family's history, she also embarks on a path of understanding her own place within the intricate tapestry of the Lennox family.

Reader's Takeaway

"Behind the Scenes at the Museum" offers readers a compelling and poignant exploration of family dynamics, secrets, and the enduring impact of history on individual lives. With its blend of historical context, complex characters, and dark humor, the novel provides a deeply immersive reading experience that resonates long after the final page.


In conclusion, "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" by Kate Atkinson is a masterfully crafted novel that skillfully weaves together the personal experiences of the Lennox family with the broader historical context of the 20th century. Through Ruby's narrative, readers are drawn into a world of secrets, conflicts, and resilience, offering a profound exploration of family, identity, and the passage of time. Atkinson's evocative storytelling and richly developed characters make this novel a compelling and unforgettable read.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum FAQ

  1. What is 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' about?

    The book follows the life of Ruby Lennox, starting from before her conception and spanning through several generations of the Lennox family. It explores themes of family dynamics, secrets, and the impact of the past on the present.

  2. Who is the author of 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum'?

    Kate Atkinson is the author of 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum'. She is known for her intricate storytelling and compelling characters.

  3. Is 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' part of a series?

    No, 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  4. What genre does 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' belong to?

    The book can be classified as historical fiction, family saga, and literary fiction.

  5. What are the major themes in 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum'?

    The major themes in the book include family, identity, memory, and the impact of the past on the present. It also delves into the complexities of human relationships and the secrets that can shape a family's history.