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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 ...
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, BerylBainbridge 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 ...
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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... Eliot; anyway, wit is now female, and so is bravado in the choice and handling of themes. Mrs Fitzgerald used to be published by Duckworth, as were or are Caroline Blackwood, Alice Thomas Ellis and BerylBainbridge: 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 ...

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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... Even novels in which almost nothing happens – John McGahern’s, for instance – will speak in historical whispers, aiming to ‘disimprison’, as Coleridge once said, ‘the soul of fact’. BerylBainbridge 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 ...

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 BerylBainbridge’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. There were random, grotesque accidents and sudden deaths, involving incidental characters ...

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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... doesn’t yet know what to do with characters like these. When he does, he’ll be a novelist to reckon with. Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge sells his wife. J.S. Watson, at the beginning of BerylBainbridge’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 ...
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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... tradition, George Orwell: but at least he had the decency to own up, at least he ‘came out’ as a sentimental and cynical snob. This year we have more contributions to the cartography of class – BerylBainbridge’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 ...

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: BerylBainbridge’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 ...
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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... as having personally murdered his beloved niece Geli Raubal, and here they must certainly be wholly rejected, though he undoubtedly played an unsavoury role in the events leading up to her death. BerylBainbridge, 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 ...
25 January 1990
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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... escapement by way of which, tick after tick, it unwinds. But Stella, her emotional puzzlement abetted by feral cleverness, is too convincing for the story to become a mechanical roundabout of love. BerylBainbridge’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 ...

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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... A man in a Thurber cartoon asks a woman: ‘But Myra, what do you want to be enigmatic for?’ Or words to that effect. The question kept coming into my head as I read BerylBainbridge’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 ...

England’s End

Peter Campbell

7 June 1984
English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 434 60371 6
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English Journey, or The Road to Milton Keynes 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth/BBC, 158 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 563 20299 8
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Crisis and Conservation: Conflict in the British Countryside 
by Charlie Pye-Smith and Chris Rose.
Penguin, 213 pp., £3.95, March 1984, 0 14 022437 8
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Invisible Country: A Journey through Scotland 
by James Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 164 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 297 78371 8
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Literary Britain 
by Bill Brandt.
Victoria and Albert Museum in association with Hurtwood Press, 184 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 905209 66 4
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... his English Journey. A few years later Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier, and Edwin Muir Scottish Journey. Now, as the succeeding wave reaches the bottom of its downward swing, the BBC send out Bainbridge to follow Priestley, and James Campbell records travels which were in the spirit, if not the footsteps of Muir. Why novelists? Perhaps because it is reckoned that they will give a human dimension to ...

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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... with a bit of pretentiousness in the book that has to do with smooth lawns, a salad that Beth ‘has a natural aptitude for’ and cold white wine. There’s another version of modern primitivism in BerylBainbridge’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 ...


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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... one of the Whitbread judges, wrote an article in which he blamed the ‘Corps of Lady Novelists’ for her victory. The book, he said, ‘resembles the Life of Jackie Charlton as written by BerylBainbridge’. 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 ...

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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...  on numbers of dependants, nature of drug habit, taste for foreign travel, and so on. Now and again, though, some figures do get aired and 20 grand a year seems to be the favoured target. BerylBainbridge 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 ...

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