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03 November 2016 | by Melanie McDonagh

Liver bird


 

Beryl Bainbridge: love by all sorts of means
BRENDAN KING

A bit long … 485 pages, before the notes start. That was my first reaction to this authoritative biography of Beryl Bainbridge. And when I found the book began with an exhaustive exploration of her family tree, my misgivings deepened.

Well, I ended up reading it in the bath. Beryl Bainbridge’s novels were quirky, idiosyncratic things but they paled by comparison with her life, which provided much raw ­material for them. Whatever heartbreak, vicissitude or downright oddity Bainbridge  experienced, there was a good chance it would end up transmuted into fiction, drama or anecdote. Indeed, as her biographer makes clear, her fiction was lived or talked out as much as written. And quite the best thing about this book is the extensive quotations from her letters, which are consistently arresting, funny and vivid, even when misspelled, as they invariably were. Bainbridge was almost certainly dyslexic; it only adds to the unaffected charm of her prose.





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