Following on from last week’s post highlighting Beryl’s earlier novels, here is a brief survey of her later novels and other works to help you choose which books, if any, you’d like to read if you join in with Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week in mid-June. Once more, clicking on a book title will take you to the most readily copies available on Amazon UK via my affiliate link, (they’ll return to the bottom of future posts).
We left the bibliography in Part One in the mid 1980s, after Beryl’s first historical novel proper, something she was to continue with great success in some of her later novels…
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Filthy Lucre(1946, pub 1986). We start off part two though with a piece of Juvenalia written when she was a teenager. Subtitled The tragedy of Ernest Ledwhistle and Richard Soleway: A story. I’ve not been able to find out anything about the plot, but have ordered a copy of this novella!
An Awfully Big Adventure(1989) A third shortlisting for the Booker Prize. Set in 1950 and following the rehearsals for a Christmas production of Peter Pan, this novel follows the coming of age of young Asst Stage Manager Stella, and her relationships with the director Meredith, and the actor playing Hook. A bittersweet tale of innocence and loss. It was made into a rather good movie with Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant (sadly only available on DVD at over-inflated prices). I loved this book when I read it ages ago, and will re-read for BBRW.
The Birthday Boys(1991) Bainbridge tells the story of Scott’s final push to the South Pole. The five men each take a turn in telling the story, each putting their stamp on the narrative. Masterful – I loved it (review here).
Every Man For Himself(1996) Winner of the Whitbread Novel Prize, and Beryl’s fourth Booker shortlisting. It tells the fateful story of the Titanic through the eyes of Morgan, a rich young man related to the ship’s owner. In concentrating on the first class characters, it paints a portrait of an insular group with an impressive array of vices.
Master Georgie (1998) Gaining a final fifth Booker shortlisting, this novel won the posthumous Booker ‘Best of Beryl’. It follows the story of a Liverpudlian doctor who heads for the Crimea for some excitement. His story is narrated by three different voices of those associated with him: an orphan devoted to her Master Georgie; his scholarly brother-in-law; and a street urchin who becomes George’s lover.
According to Queeney(2001) Beryl brings the last years of great wit Samuel Johnson to life as see through the eyes of Queeney, the first born daughter of his mistress. We meet many other famous names of the period and explore Johnson’s relationship with his friend and benefactor Mrs Thrale.
The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress(2011) Beryl’s last novel returns to the late 1960s after Martin Luther King’s assassination. It follows the story of Rose and a man called Washington Harold who travel across the USA in search of a man called Dr Wheeler – each having a need to find him – one benign, one less so.
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Two collections of short stories are available. Mum and Mr. Armitage: Selected Stories from 1985 – a collection of twelve tales that tend to be unsettling in their conclusions; and Collected Storiesfrom 1994. Later editions of this include Filthy Lucre amongst other additions.
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And finally, briefly – on to Beryl’s non-fiction:
- English Journey or the Road to Milton Keynes(1984) – Book of a TV series in which Beryl retraced the footsteps of J B Priestley’s famous English Journey
fifty years previously.
- Forever England: North and South(1987) I know nothing about this book, but am hoping that a clue is in the title!
- Something Happened Yesterday (1993) is a collection of her weekly columns from the now defunct London Evening Standard newspaper about anything and everything.
- Front Row: Evenings at the Theatre (1995) A collection of Beryl’s writing about the theatre, concentrating on the 1990s when she wrote many reviews for The Oldie.
Apart from the odd inclusion in other anthologies, that’s it! I’ve invested in a copies of everything above that I didn’t already have and as soon as they’ve all arrived, I tempt you further with a photo of my stack!