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A Quiet Life: Complete & Unabridged Audio Cassette – Audiobook, Jul 2001


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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Chivers Audio Books; Unabridged edition (July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0754006743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0754006749
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14 x 18.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,004,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Anything for A Quiet Life: this reissue of a novel first published in 1976 was written before Bainbridge's recent turn to historical fiction, and reworks the semi-autobiographical terrain familiar from her early novels, a post-war lower-middle-class setting characterised by meanness, frustration and emotional evasion.

The respectable facade of Alan's family conceals a mounting range of quirks and dysfunctions. His father chafes and rages under obscure financial humiliations. His younger sister, Madge, is having secret meetings with a German POW. His mother is making regular trips into the night, to pursue her own illicit pleasures in an empty railway station. Their desperation leaks from between the lines of Bainbridge's elliptical prose, or emanates from the grotesqueries of telling period detail--from liberty-bodices, fly-paper, the "swollen crust" of a meat pie, the "small scab" kept unhealed upon Alan's father's head from its repeated collision with the mantelpiece in the family's cramped and over-furnished kitchen. The drive is towards tragedy; but even tragedy strikes, in this understated world, with deadening calm, and via domestic metaphor. Alan's unleashing of fatal passions is accompanied by his breaking of the family clock. The resulting silence is both real and symbolic, and pursues him into his adult life. Like many Bainbridge novels, this one finally compels you to return to its start, to reread opening events in the light of a gained painful knowledge.--Sarah Waters --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

This early Bainbridge novel has all her hallmarks - a murderously wry insight into hypocrisy and self-delusion balanced by an unsentimental understanding of the larger picture which renders the sneaking and creeping pitiful rather than menacing. Adept at using large historical events as a springboard into fictional reconstruction, Bainbridge keeps her attention focused on a stiflingly small canvas, her prose as restrained as the lives it dissects. Unremitting domestic strife and the suffocating struggle to uphold the manners of shabby genteel poverty define the lives of a family in the 1950s. The novel fades towards the end but this is still an unforgettable read. (Kirkus UK)

Her last novel, Sweet William (1976), began the swing away from the elements of surreptitious surprise which introduced this writer from the beginning as an accomplished teller of horror stories. Predictable stories to a degree, since they were so well founded in commonplace experience. This is slighter than Sweet William and as quiet as its title, unless you listen to the underside of what's being said. Between the cursory interchange of the first chapter and the ironic coda of the last, Bainbridge fills in the WW II years of Alan and Madge, nearly grown children of a descending middle-class family. Father has fallen on hard times - he also has bad "turns" everyone overlooks. Mother, no longer mothering, spends her evenings with her "fancy man," while Madge is out in the dunes with a German prisoner of war. Home gets short shrift - so does Father whose last spell is fatal and unattended. . . . This is the most unassuming of writers, the most careful in the choice of the right word and the right detail to complete a portrait of a family imperceptibly falling away. It's as plain as that black pudding Father perhaps should not have eaten, but how remarkably Beryl Bainbridge raises familiarity to the plateau of excellence. (Kirkus Reviews) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Duncan on 30 Aug 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the first Beryl Bainbridge novel I have read. It was only because she recently died that I thought I would give it a go. The story is about a dysfunctional lower middle class family in the 1950s, told from the point of view of one of the children, who is caused to recollect his childhood by meeting his sister some years later. The prose is very spare, yet poetic and full of telling details. The book is short, at only 150-odd pages, but you don't get the feeling that it needed to be any longer, and it's the author's ability to compress emotions and let a few words paint a detailed picture that achieve this. The characters are all highly believable, from the manic, desperate father, to the depressed, desperate mother, but it is the two children that are most skilfully depicted. The narrative really focusses on the pain of living with unhappy parents, and the different strategies that the siblings have resorted to to try to survive. Molly, the independent-minded, yet troubled girl, is absent all the time. She can't stand to be around her parents, and you can't really blame her. To her mother, who plainly sees her as her younger self, she can do no wrong. For the repressed, anxious boy, who I think is called Richard (I forget), Molly is unforgivably absent, and her attempts to assert her individuality only add fuel to the fire of his parents' madness. It's a poignant question for children: to be or not to be. Is it better to try to play along with impossible, demanding parents, or do you have a duty to act as an individual? The two siblings play out these strategies, but the reader is left to form his own conclusion, which might be that it isn't really fair to force children to make these choices at all. In any case, I will be seeking out more work by this talented and perceptive author, and I recommend that other readers give it a try.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Sep 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alan had never known it but meeting his sister again after so many years she'd informed him he had been a lonely child. He didn't quite know what to think because it was the first time anyone had said that. It wasn't how he remembered his life with mother and father and Madge, his sister, who was forever chasing the POWs and had almost gone back to Germany with one repatriated soldier. It was a terrible scandal at the time, except nobody knew about it. Scandals were like that in his family. There were plenty of them, but none that other people knew about. There was the way that his mother went to sit in the station waiting room, where there was a fire and she could read without being disturbed by father's moods and madness. He was convinced she had a fancy-man and roamed the town looking in the Hotel lounges, certain he would catch her out. Of course he never did, and even when Alan told him where she went he refused to believe it.

This is the story of Alan, his sister Madge, his girlfriend Janet Leyland and, most of all, his mother and his father. It's a wild and passionate story, all taking place in a little house in which the furniture takes pride of place and the people have to fit themselves in wherever they can. Again and again Bainbridge reminds us how small and poky terraced housing could be in the era just after the war:

"He went out into the hall to hang his coat over the banisters. He could hear his father muttering on the porch. He had to tread carefully. If he moved too boisterously he would catch the net curtains with his shoulder and tip the vase of cut flowers from the window-sill. The marble statue of Adam and Eve, recently brought down from the landing, was shaky on its pedestal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carol R on 1 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A beautifully written account of life just after the 2nd world war. Sometimes funny but at times a very poignant observation of family life
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Great book 6 Dec 2001
By Zack Handlen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This was my first exposure to Beryl Bainbridge; a friend reccommended another of her books to me, and this was the first one I could find in the library, so I picked it up. I've read a few more since then, and while this isn't her best book, it is still a solid read, moving, disturbing, and darkly comic by turns. There's not a whole lot of plot, but there is a story that pulls you along, and the characters are sketched out brilliantly. I can't remember the last time I read something that was quite this disturbing without ever being blatantly violent or horrorific; it's more about the evils people do to themselves and others in the real world than anything. I wouldn't necessarily suggest starting with this book if you're new to the author; but then, I did, and I'm a huge fan. Definitely worth a look.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Quiet, indeed! 18 Nov 2010
By bobcat931 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, a very very quiet life. Set in post WW II England. Interesting, well written but not a lot happening. Worth reading, I guess just for the exposure to the genre.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Facts on "A Quiet Life" 17 Feb 2004
By Eric Lin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The life of a family consisting of two parents, Joe and Connie, and their two children, Madge and Alan is shown in this book by Beryl Bainbridge. A Quiet Life describes the ups and downs of the family after WWII. Joe once had a great business, but after some events in the war, he is now bankrupt and is listening to the `wireless', as they called it (radio in our days). Connie, a woman who married Joe years ago because of his wealth, is now a very strict lady who reads novels at the train station alone every night, while during the day, she drinks tea. The daughter, Madge, is a girl who walks along the mine-filled seaside every night. She is a girl who is trusted by her mother, who often believes the lies of Madge, making her able to get away from the troubles she has done. Lastly, the main character is Alan, who is a 17 year old teenager who falls in love with Janet, another girl in his school.
The main idea of the book is shown in the title, A Quiet Life, because it is about Alan, trying to have his own life different from the kind he grew up in. Why he wants his own life is because there is a lot of chaos going on around the house that he has to put up with and try to live through them everyday. Starting with Alan and Madge meeting each other inside the café, a shift is made to the actual life these two children grew up in. With his father constantly getting upset with the family and his leftover wealth, things inside the house are often thrown around, while the two children always try to get out of the scene. During the story, Alan often argues with his sister about going to see a German P.O.W and almost causing a disaster for the family. These are only some of the problems that occurred within this spoiled family. This book has really grabbed my attention once I started reading it, because the plot is based on real life problems within a family.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TALK ABOUT A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY !!! 4 Jun 2002
By LUV TO READ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a well written story of the cold reality of life, but I found it a little too depressing....A mother and father, daughter and son share a small English seaside house shortly after the end of World War II. Landmines are still scattered along the beach.....The mother escapes her disappointed life by reading novels at night in the train station....The father drinks. goes off into tantrums and throws things around in the house and outside....The fifteen year old daughter, Madge sneaks out after dark to meet with a German POW.....The adolescent son, Alan tries, in vain, to alter or ignore his family by retreating into silence.....There just was no answer to this family's problems.
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