Anyone for Beryl?

I’ve been inspired by a question that Simon asked his discussion post during Muriel Spark Reading Week which he co-hosted with Harriet. Simon asked “Which other authors would you recommend to the Spark fan?” and my immediate response was Beryl Bainbridge!

I’ve read just four of Bainbridge’s fifteen novels, but each one has been a joy. They are:

  • The Bottle Factory Outing – read just the other month – her 4th novel set in early 1970s London;
  • The Birthday Boys – one of her historical novels from 1991 about Scott of the Antarctic;
  • Every man for himself about the Titanic;
  • and pre-blog, An awfully big adventure, about a provincial theatre production of Peter Pan.

In my view, she is Spark’s natural inheritor, coming into her own a decade after Muriel.  She is renowned for being the most nominated author never to have won the Booker prize, having been nominated five times. In 2011, the Booker Prize Committee held a posthumous ‘Best of Beryl’ celebration, won by her novel Master Georgie, her novel set during the Crimean War.

There are loads of cracking good Bainbridge novels I’ve still to read, and I’d like to re-read some of the above too.

So – is there anyone for Beryl?
Who would like to join me in a week celebrating this brilliant British author?  

We’re going to be celebrating all things British with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at the start of June, and London 2012 from the end of July.  I’d like to tap into that and pick a week in between.  How about Monday June 18th to Sunday June 24th.

59 thoughts on “Anyone for Beryl?

  1. drharrietd says:

    You can definitely count me in! I have been thinking of reading more BB for a while. Great idea — thanks.

  2. heavenali says:

    Count me in – I will need a reminder nearer the time though. I have never read any Beryl Bainbridge, but saw a review of the Bottle Factory Outing recently and added it to my wishlist on Amazon. This would be a good excuse to get to grips with a new author. I have just read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the Muriel Spark week, and it left me a bit cold – so I am wonderfing if Bainbridge will do the same or not.

    • gaskella says:

      Bainbridge is funny but empathetic, so I think you’ll find her a bit different to Spark. Don’t worry – I’ll do a reminder (I chose the only week this term, when I’ll be able to fit in lots of blogging!).

    • gaskella says:

      Thanks Dark Puss. I agree about Weldon – I seem to have read a lot about her, and own several of her books, but have never read one! We should encourage someone to champion her for a reading week too.

  3. Simon T says:

    I love this idea, Annabel, and I’m very pleased that my little question helped inspire it! I also adore your badge – I’m already excited about the whole thing! Reading weeks for authors are one of my favourite parts of blogging, I think.

    • gaskella says:

      Thank you Simon.

      I shamelessly copied the style of your badge for Muriel, but once I saw the b/w photo of her with a cat, it called to me, and the letters just had to be bright red (my favourite colour). Sorry it’s a bit similar.

      I find I’m much more likely to join in a reading week, than a longer project. Looking forward to reading many more of her books.

  4. Sophia says:

    Count me in! I’ve had a couple of Beryl Bainbridge books sitting on my shelf unread for far too long. MSRW was so much fun, I’m sure BBRW will be too 🙂

    • gaskella says:

      Brilliant Sophia! I was admiring all your MS posts earlier – will pop back and comment later.

  5. Alex in Leeds says:

    I’m in! I’ve never read any Bainbridge but I’ve got a copy of Every Man For Himself somewhere in the TBR stacks and am intrigued by the Scott-inspired novel. 🙂

  6. gaskella says:

    Hi Seamus, nice to meet you and know you’ll be joining in. I shall check out your blog shortly! I loved the ‘BFO’ too. ‘Injury time’ will be the next one I read, my copy of ‘Master Georgie’ is currently buried somewhere in my TBR mountains!

    • linda k says:

      Can a girl from the states who swears she was supposed to be a Brit join in? I have read many of the books you speak of and always looking for more.

  7. FleurFisher says:

    I’ve only read a couple of books by Beryl Bainbridge – I loved An Awfully Big Adventure but I was underwhelmed by Every Man For Himself – so it’s probably time to give her another try.

    • gaskella says:

      Fleur – there are loads more great novels by her. I’ll be doing a survey to help people pick nearer the time.

  8. LizF says:

    I know that I have read a couple of Beryl Bainbridge’s books many moons ago but I can’t for the life of me remember which ones or what I thought about them but I do recall liking her immensely because she was so wonderfully eccentric!
    I think that I read her at the same time that I read quite a few books by Fay Weldon and MUriel Spark which was frighteningly close to 30 years ago so they are clearly all very much due for a re-read!
    I suspect that my take on them now will be quite different to my views then but I can’t decide whether I should have a ferret around in the attic to see if I still have my old copies or save myself time (if not money) and see if I can acquire them again – potentially a dangerous thought!
    Anyway count me in to your reading week – I will be away on holiday the week before so hopefully should have more reading time!

    • gaskella says:

      She is eccentric and lovely I agree. There was a documentary on BBC or C4 about her last year, made by her son I think which really showed her personality, and of course she acted as well.

    • gaskella says:

      Brilliant Simon. I loved AABA and want to re-read it for BBRW, and IT is my next to read. (Loving these acronyms too!)

  9. Christine Harding says:

    I don’t know her work, so I’d love to join in – and I shall learn from past mistakes and try to acquire books from now on! No leaving it until the last minute…

  10. David says:

    Beryl was a real inspiration as was her Brother (my Father) Beryl’s early novels were semi auto biographical and family members often recognised themselves although they weren’t always happy with how they were portrayed. Betyl’s Father was extremely witty and his letters to Beryl and My Father often contained funny short stories based on Family events. Another misconception is that Beryl came from a working class background, her grandfather was the MD. of what is now Crown paints and her Uncle started the Africa House group of companies, her Father’s income meant that the Family were wealthy one month and poor the next but they owned their own house in 1930, had nice holidays abroad, ran a motor car and ate out at least once a week. Very few Families in the 1930’s / 40’s were in a position to do that.
    If you visit the British Library their are some letters from the early 50’s sent to Beryl by her Brother, Mother and Father and one of the letters from her Father contains a funny short story and well worth a read.
    I once heard Beryl speak at Cheltenham and I was inspired, she encouraged me to write a book in the last few years before her death and I wish she was still here to chat too. I loved the chats we used to have. To me she was just my Aunty Beryl.

    • gaskella says:

      Dear David,
      Wow! – What a lovely surprise, and thank you so much for your words about your Aunty Beryl.
      This makes me look forward, even more, to hosting BBRW in June (as if that were possible!). The response amongst book-bloggers has been fantastic so far.
      Although I’ve yet to read all of her books, I’ve enjoyed each one read, and I’m building up a complete set to read for BBRW.

      I also loved seeing her on telly whenever she appeared – in particular. the BBC4 documentary by her grandson broadcast after she died was absolutely compelling, she was so witty and wise. You must miss her. Thank you again.

      • Caroline says:

        Guy (His Futile Preoccupations) has introduced me to Beryl Bainbridge. He has read all of her novels. I will tell him about your event. Maybe he is due for a re-read. I’m now tempted to join despite my lack of time… The Bottle Factory Outing and 2 others are on my piles…

  11. Juxtabook says:

    I’ll never have time to join in but I’ll await the discussions with interest. I have only read one Bainbridge, Master Georgie, and I could not see the point. I have the same problem with Pat Barker. I do like Muriel Spark though. So I will wait to have my opinion changed!

  12. gaskella says:

    Master Georgie is in my pile to read, so watch this space. But I hope we can change your mind!

  13. Col says:

    Never read any Beryl Bainbridge but she’s always been one of those “I wonder if I’d like that..?” authors for me so this is a good chance to find out! As a Beryl-virgin I guess I’ll just plump for one at random and see where it takes me, unless someone recommends otherwise!

    • gaskella says:

      Col – glad to have you on board. I will be doing a couple of posts offering a survey of Beryl’s books to help people pick what to read in a week or so.

  14. Charlotte C. says:

    I am an Anglophile from across the pond also, read in many genres, but have never read Beryl Bainbridge. I would like to join in if I may.

  15. LizF says:

    I have Master Georgie, According to Queenie and Every Man for Himself and will probably read them in that order (given the time).
    I will be interested to see if my take on her work has changed since I originally read her some time in the late 70’s- early 80’s!

    BTW just read The Fever Tree – found it very hard to put down although I could have done without the zebra being used as a plot device although I suspected as much from its introduction!

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