"Behind the Scenes at the museum" - Kate Atkinson Consider the effectiveness of the title. You may wish to consider the "behind the scenes" quality of the telling of the story and the notion of a "museum".

Authors Avatar


“Behind the Scenes at the museum” – Kate Atkinson

Consider the effectiveness of the title. You may wish to consider the “behind the scenes” quality of the telling of the story and the notion of a “museum”.

          “I exist!” So begins the novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Ruby Lennox has literally just been conceived and is already starting to narrate her life story. Although many of the chapters in the book are told from Ruby’s perspective, commenting on the present, there are others that follow called footnotes. These depict stories from the past, explaining how and why certain things came to be, following various members of her family dating back to her great grandmother. At the beginning of the book, we are not quite sure how these footnotes are relevant, but realise after a short time that they are vital to the insight and understanding of many of the complicated characters in the book. The footnotes are spread throughout the entire course of the book, which means that the beautiful story unfurls gradually, leaping from past to present, fitting together magically in front of you, up until the very last chapter.

           To fully understand this book, you must first fully understand the title. The notion of a “museum” is interesting. Thinking about an actual museum, you can look at the exhibits, you can read the information on them, but you can never fully understand them. You haven’t followed them through their existence, seen what’s happened to them or felt what’s happened to them. Ruby is taking the reader through a museum of her life. The reader looks upon things that happen throughout her life, and without realising, will pass through something as small as a teaspoon or a button and not realise that they are links in the chain that makes up the “museum”. After a sentence or statement that often confuses the reader, there will be an instruction such as “(see Footnote (ii))”. It is only after we read that particular footnote that we understand the previous chapter, thus, we are going ‘Behind the scenes’. The grandmother of Bunty, mother of Nell and great grandmother of Ruby, Alice, is the first member of the family the reader explores in Footnote (i). It is in this footnote that the button that Gillian swallows in the chapter before is explained to the reader. Such a tiny object introduces us to people who we haven’t even come across in the book yet, but whose stories we will find out in due course. A tiny button starts the reader on a journey of understanding every character, whether it’s Bunty, Alice, Rachel, Nell or anyone else. I think that’s one of the amazing things about this book, the author can rest so much on one tiny thing and everything can be revealed from it.

Join now!

           So the title “Behind the scenes at the museum” tells us that we are going behind the scenes, finding out much more that there appears to be on the outside, hidden things, secrets whether they’re good or bad, in Ruby Lennox’s life. But it’s not her life; it’s more like her own museum. A museum of new and old things, of good and bad. Another way of putting it would be like watching a play; you can see the ‘surface’ or the ‘result’, but you cannot tell what goes on behind the scenes.


This is a preview of the whole essay