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An Awfully Big Adventure

Yesterday, Dame Beryl Bainbridge died at the age of 75. I am looking at a photograph of her that must have been taken several years ago, but it is an ageless face. She is resting the side of her face against a hand, which holds a cigarette. (For her, smoking was part of the writing process.) Her eyes are large and deeply set, looking at something out of shot, observing. She has enviable bone structure. There is a slight lift at the corner of her mouth, almost a smile but not quite. Like her writing, I suspect that humour disguises a seriousness.

In a documentary that she made for the BBC4, she said, “Everybody should write down, as best they can, before they die, what they think they were like. Then their children won’t get an entirely different idea of who they were.” Since she also claimed to base characters on herself, reading one of her books seems a good place to start looking for Dame Beryl.

This is the work that she left us:

A Weekend with Claud   (revised as ‘A Weekend with Claude; 1981)   Hutchinson, 1967

Another Part of the Wood   Hutchinson, 1968

Harriet Said  Duckworth, 1972

Sweet William  Duckworth, 1973

The Dressmaker  Duckworth, 1973

The Bottle Factory Outing  Duckworth, 1974

A Quiet Life  Duckworth, 1976

Injury Time  Duckworth, 1977

Young Adolf  Duckworth, 1978

Winter Garden  Duckworth, 1980

English Journey  Duckworth, 1984

Watson’s Apology  Duckworth, 1984

Forever England  Duckworth, 1985

Mum and Mr Armitage  Duckworth, 1985

Filthy Lucre, or The Tragedy of Andrew Ledwhistle and Richard Soleway   Duckworth, 1986

An Awfully Big Adventure  Duckworth, 1989

The Birthday Boys  Duckworth, 1991

Something Happened Yesterday  Duckworth, 1993

Collected Stories  Duckworth, 1994

Every Man For Himself  Duckworth, 1996

Master Georgie  Duckworth, 1998

According to Queeney   Little, Brown, 2001

Front Row: Evenings at the Theatre   Continuum International, 2005

The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress   Little, Brown, 2008