Knowingly Undersold: Mark Bostridge Recalls the Difficult Birth of Beryl Bainbridge's Final Novel

By Bostridge, Mark | New Statesman (1996), May 30, 2011 | Go to article overview

Knowingly Undersold: Mark Bostridge Recalls the Difficult Birth of Beryl Bainbridge's Final Novel


Bostridge, Mark, New Statesman (1996)


My last conversation with Beryl Bainbridge took place over the phone in May last year, during the general election campaign. She was in a bit of a quandary about where to place her vote. David Cameron was a new kind of Tory, wasn't he? I assured her that Cameron was very much of the traditional school. "Well, in that case," she replied distractedly, "I suppose I'll have to vote for old Frank [Dobson]."

Beryl was much more interested in reporting the progress she was making on her latest novel. At last the finishing post was in sight. She was writing and rewriting, cutting out extraneous material so that the book said just as much - or as little - as she wanted. It was a finely balanced exercise. She used to say that she hated books where you read a page and could tell immediately what was going to happen next. Her own novels were painstakingly designed to give away no more than was necessary, even to the extent of forcing readers to retrace their steps in a fruitless exercise to attempt to establish exactly what had taken place. "Darling well have brekkie at the beginning of July," she said as she signed off, "when it's all over."

Beryl had told friends that the cancer for which she'd been operated on several years earlier had returned. At dinner in April she had appeared fragile, suffering unduly from the cold, the sparkle of her conversation uncharacteristically dimmed. But it came nevertheless as a great shock to learn of her death in the first week of July after a short spell in University College Hospital, London.

My first thought, after the news had sunk in, was for Beryl's novel. It seemed cruel that she should have died without seeing the book in print. The pain and misery of writing it had dominated much of the final decade of her life. For the first time in her career, she had found herself suffering from writer's block. Previously she had kept up an extraordinary rate of production, publishing a work of fiction every other year over almost three decades, but this 18th novel had almost defeated her. She was worn out and drinking more to compensate for the feeling of detachment she experienced whenever she went to a literary event or party. And she found it impossible to write without the perennial cigarette in hand. She was jubilant when she found a doctor who permitted her to smoke, having realised that writing was more important to her than life.

I suggested to Beryl my own solutions to her dilemma-an autobiography, perhaps. "But my life's all in the novels!" she exclaimed, and at times she did appear to have difficulty distinguishing between the fictional re-creations of her life and actual events. She remembered the first novel she wrote, Harriet Said, completed in 1958, and how one publisher had described it as repulsive beyond belief. The twist in the tale was based on a trip the 16-year-old Beryl had made to Paris with a business acquaintance of her father's. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Knowingly Undersold: Mark Bostridge Recalls the Difficult Birth of Beryl Bainbridge's Final Novel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.