Dame Beryl Bainbridge, DBE21 November 1934 - 2 July 2010
Posted 03 July 2010 - 01:58 AM
I did not discover her until 1977 when she won a “Whitbread Award” for “Injury Time” an award she garnered for a second time in 1996.
I especially enjoyed her last book “According to Queeney”, her literary fictional observation of the latter years of Samuel Johnson.
As recorded in today’s obituaries, Beryl Bainbridge was included among The Times list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
Posted 03 July 2010 - 06:31 AM
Like you, I first read Bainbridge in the 70s,. In my case, the introduction was Sweet William, which I picked up at the public library after being intrigued by the jacket copy.
I read a number of Bainbridge novels during the 70s and have to confess that manyl of my impression of what English people are (or can be) like comes from them and similar works. Certainly they expanded my view of English society, which up to that point had tended to consist of aristocrats (some glamourous, some fatuous), earnest Bloombury-ites, Bright Young Things, dotty village murderers, and deeply neurotic academics. The characters she created -- I'm tempted to say, "conjured up" -- are so vivid, so tightly constructed and whole, that you have to believe in them even when they seem at first glance to be implausible.
Sometimes the world according to Austen or Woolf can start feeling narrow and claustrophobic, When someone reaches that point, Bainbridge might be just the thing they need.
Posted 03 July 2010 - 07:03 AM
I can't say I could ever find Austen claustrophobic - rather the opposite - but Bainbridge's writing certainly reflects the greater ability of women to get out of the house these days.
Posted 05 July 2010 - 03:59 PM
The plaster saints were not real. Dickens was her real patron, and she was the only writer of our day who had a truly Dickensian gift. Like Dickens, she used all the buried ghosts of a presumably unhappy childhood to produce a gallery of literary comedy. She would sometimes stand in Bayham Street, Camden Town, and a look of real reverence came over her face as we recalled the child Dickens leaving from that address each morning on the long walk down to the boot-blacking factory in the Strand.
Interesting that her publisher did not favor fiction.
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