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The Novels of Beryl Bainbridge

Gavin Ewart, 22 February 1990

... If you’re a man in a book by Beryl, believe me, you’re in very great peril! Unsure of purpose, weak and wobbly, or stern and strong, small bum, knees knobbly, Accidental-On-Purpose Death before the end will stop your breath! You’ll find it’s a girl who’s the great Prime Mover when your Fate sucks you in like a ghastly Hoover ...

Just going outside

D.J. Enright, 30 January 1992

The Birthday Boys 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £12.99, December 1991, 0 7156 2378 8
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... Under her somewhat demotic exterior, Beryl Bainbridge is concerned (which hardly seems the right word) with myths. Her dealings with them, virtually invisible, are unportentous in the extreme, perhaps too unportentous for her own good – though not for theirs. They need invisibility, being commonly regarded as ancient prescriptions, commandments and warnings, bullying and surely obsolete, for leading our lives ...

Rose on the Run

Andrew O’Hagan: Beryl Bainbridge, 14 July 2011

The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Little, Brown, 197 pp., £16.99, May 2011, 978 0 316 72848 5
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... historical whispers, aiming to ‘disimprison’, as Coleridge once said, ‘the soul of fact’. Beryl Bainbridge was one of the last of the pre-Google English novelists, the last, you might say, following Coleridge, for whom facts had a soul and were not simply pluckable. Take her novel Master Georgie, set in the Crimean War. While reading it, I ...

The Duckworth School of Writers

Frank Kermode, 20 November 1980

Human Voices 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 177 pp., £5.25, September 1980, 0 00 222280 9
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Winter Garden 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7156 1495 9
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... used to be published by Duckworth, as were or are Caroline Blackwood, Alice Thomas Ellis and Beryl Bainbridge: all practise surprise and cultivate oddly-angled observation. There remains a certain strained resemblance between Fitzgerald and Bainbridge, though the latter is less elegant and altogether more wicked ...

Kiss me, Hardy

Humphrey Carpenter, 15 November 1984

Peeping Tom 
by Howard Jacobson.
Chatto, 266 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2908 5
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Watson’s Apology 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 222 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7156 1935 7
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The Foreigner 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 237 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2904 2
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... with. Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge sells his wife. J.S. Watson, at the beginning of Beryl Bainbridge’s new novel, buys his. John Selby Watson was (for this is historical fact) the headmaster of a South London grammar school. He had humble, Hardian origins; his parents had given him away in infancy, and he grew up with no experience of ...

Mind’s Eye

Sarah Rigby: Beryl Bainbridge, 4 June 1998

Master Georgie 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £14.99, April 1998, 0 7156 2831 3
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... All through Beryl Bainbridge’s latest novel, characters dwell on chance and fate, and the string of coincidences that link their lives. These aren’t new preoccupations for Bainbridge; one of the striking things about her earlier novels was the rather ambivalent way in which chance was used ...

South Yorkshire Republic

Beatrix Campbell, 4 June 1987

Forever England 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth/BBC, 174 pp., £9.95, April 1987, 0 563 20466 4
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by Alan Sillitoe.
Grafton, 170 pp., £14.95, March 1987, 0 246 12852 6
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Left behind: Journeys into British Politics 
by David Selbourne.
Cape, 174 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 224 02370 5
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... sentimental and cynical snob. This year we have more contributions to the cartography of class – Beryl Bainbridge’s benign Forever England follows up her television series. Alan Sillitoe has written a coffee-table book, Nottinghamshire, with photographs by David Sillitoe. And David Selbourne has put his New Society pieces together in Left ...

Hitler at Heathrow

E.S. Shaffer, 7 August 1980

The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler 
edited by Michael Unger.
Duckworth, 192 pp., £4.95, March 1979, 0 7156 1356 1
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The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. 
by George Steiner.
Granta, 66 pp., £1.50
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Young Adolf 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £6.95, November 1978, 0 7156 1323 5
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... rejected, though he undoubtedly played an unsavoury role in the events leading up to her death. Beryl Bainbridge, in her novel Young Adolf, adopts only the relatively plausible, if probably apocryphal, tale of Hitler’s visit to Liverpool, and uses it to place Hitler with barbed accuracy in the petit bourgeois milieu to which he belonged and which is ...

The Buffalo in the Hall

Susannah Clapp: Beryl Bainbridge, 5 January 2017

Beryl BainbridgeLove by All Sorts of Means, a Biography 
by Brendan King.
Bloomsbury, 564 pp., £25, September 2016, 978 1 4729 0853 7
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... Brendan King​ starts with a difficulty: Beryl Bainbridge’s writing. It makes everyone else’s prose look flabby. But he also has an advantage: his particular knowledge of her life. King worked with Bainbridge for more than twenty years. He looked after her admin and edited her last novel for publication after her death ...
An Awfully Big Adventure 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 193 pp., £10.95, December 1989, 0 7156 2204 8
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The Thirteen-Gun Salute 
by Patrick O’Brian.
Collins, 319 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 00 223460 2
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Family Sins, and Other Stories 
by William Trevor.
Bodley Head, 251 pp., £11.95, January 1990, 0 370 31374 7
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... by feral cleverness, is too convincing for the story to become a mechanical roundabout of love. Beryl Bainbridge’s descriptions of Stella’s perceptions remind one of animal thoughts in the novels of Henry Williamson. Smells, for example, are important, and it is usually Stella who smells them: She stayed behind dipping her nose like a pecking hen ...

Only the Drop

Gabriele Annan, 17 October 1996

Every Man for Himself 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 224 pp., £14.99, September 1996, 0 7156 2733 3
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... to be enigmatic for?’ Or words to that effect. The question kept coming into my head as I read Beryl Bainbridge’s new novel, which is set on the Titanic during the four days before she sank, and narrated in the first person by a survivor whose first and only name is Morgan. The title, Every Man for Himself, suggests that human selfishness is going ...

How much?

Ian Hamilton: Literary pay and literary prizes, 18 June 1998

Guide to Literary Prizes, 1998 
edited by Huw Molseed.
Book Trust, 38 pp., £3.99, May 1998, 0 85353 475 6
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The Cost of Letters: A Survey of Literary Living Standards 
edited by Andrew Holgate and Honor Wilson-Fletcher.
W Magazine, 208 pp., £2, May 1998, 0 9527405 9 1
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... and again, though, some figures do get aired and 20 grand a year seems to be the favoured target. Beryl Bainbridge owns up to making £35,000 and Michael Holroyd regards £70,000 as a decent haul. Will Self can manage on anything between £40,000 and £80,000. At the bottom end of the scale there are poets who would happily settle for a regular 12 ...


Hilary Mantel, 4 April 1996

Behind the Scenes at the Museum 
by Kate Atkinson.
Black Swan, 382 pp., £6.99, January 1996, 0 552 99618 1
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... for her victory. The book, he said, ‘resembles the Life of Jackie Charlton as written by Beryl Bainbridge’. He clearly meant this as a huge insult – but to whom? Interviewers who had not had time to look at the book went to see Atkinson with a set of expectations which she quickly shattered. Atkinson has a degree in English literature, and ...

Dead Cats and Fungi

Robert Taubman, 20 March 1980

by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 255 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 340 24565 4
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The Mirror of the Giant 
by Penelope Shuttle.
Marion Boyars, 165 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 0 7145 2679 7
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Another Part of the Wood 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 7156 1458 4
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Wild Oats 
by Jacob Epstein.
Alison Press/Secker, 267 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 436 14826 9
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In the Secret State 
by Robert McCrum.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 241 10322 3
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... a natural aptitude for’ and cold white wine. There’s another version of modern primitivism in Beryl Bainbridge’s first novel, which she brought out in 1968 and has now rewritten. Much of Another part of wood has the raw quality of material hardly touched by the imagination that has made her something of a phenomenon of the Seventies. Yet it is ...

Lovers on a Train

Susannah Clapp, 10 January 1991

by Patricia Highsmith.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0719 8
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... in one of the most routine sentences Moore has ever written, the words ‘a quarter to nine’. Beryl Bainbridge’s An Awfully Big Adventure he denounced as being a novel ‘about a charming little girl written by a charming big girl’. Books don’t come slimmer than that. Some critics seemed to think that male writers must have been strenuously ...

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