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An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

An Awfully Big Adventure

Literary Fiction   eBook Favourites   
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It is 1950 and the Liverpool reporatory theatre company is rehearsing its Christmas production of Peter Pan, a story of childhood innocence and loss. Stella has been taken on as assistant stage manager and quickly becomes obsessed with Meredith, the dissolute director. But it is only when the celebrated O'Hara arrives to take the lead, that a different drama unfolds. In it, he and Stella are bound together in a past that neither dares to interpret.

If you like Beryl Bainbridge you might also like to read books by Penelope Lively, Edward St. Aubyn and Justin Cartwright.


An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge


'Vintage bittersweet Bainbridge'

'Imagine Priestley's THE GOOD COMPANIONS as written by Gogol and you will have some idea of the mixture of waggish humour and sordid pathos in Bainbridge's novel'

'A subtle schizophrenic insight into adult relationships . Bainbridge's understated prose and obsessive eye for the smallest and most telling of details have never been better employed'

'Speculation has often gone the literary rounds. Could this be the year when Beryl Bainbridge wins the Booker prize? It hasn't happened yet, but to be always the bridesmaid and never the bride in this way gives insufficient credit to a writer who has come so consistently close and won many other prizes, including Whitbread Awards and the James Tait Black Memorial. An Awfully Big Adventure (first published in 1989 and later filmed) is one of several of Bainbridge's novels to be shortlisted for the Booker. Like those others, it is worthy of such honour. In this novel, the author (an actress before she turned to writing) depicts what is familiar to her - the kaleidoscopic life of the theatre. Under her incisive spotlight is the 1950 Liverpool repertory company. Stella, the newly appointed assistant stage manager, takes a leading role in the unfolding drama, surrounded by a complex cast of characters. The young heroine dreams that 'love...would be her staircase to the stars'. She is soon smitten to the core by Meredith, the company's director, but Stella has some rude awakenings ahead. While actors strut and fret both on and off the stage during fraught rehearsals for a Christmas production of Peter Pan, egos are inflated only to be pierced. According to one review, this is 'vintage bittersweet Bainbridge'. All the ingredients are certainly present - a full cast of larger-than-life characters with tangled relationships and Dickensian quirkiness, wry humour mixed with celebration of the absurd, a terse, somewhat breathless style that whisks the reader from one superbly observed vignette to another and the probing exposure of life's most comic and tragic moments. From the enigmatic opening to the abrupt climax of the ending, the reader's attention cannot afford to stray. As central character 'Bees Knees O'Hara says, 'Life is full of conflagrations. We can never be sure when we'll be consumed by the past.'
(Kirkus UK)

About the Author

Beryl Bainbridge

Beryl Bainbridge wrote seventeen novels, two travel books and five plays for stage and television. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, she won literary awards including the Whitbread Prize and Author of the Year at the British Book Awards. She died in July 2010.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th February 2003


Beryl Bainbridge

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Abacus an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group


208 pages


Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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