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According To Queeney Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Length: 234 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Amazon Review

In According to Queeney, a bold, often ribald and moving invention, Beryl Bainbridge takes the extravagant figure of Samuel Johnson, 18th-century scholar and wit, and brings his last 20 years to rumbustious life through the blunt and mocking observations of his mistress's firstborn daughter Queeney.

Hurtling her readers into small and great events in the company of Garrick and Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Fanny Burney and Boswell, the years spin by. Johnson's wearisomely quarrelling household in Johnson's Court draws him increasingly to the sublime excesses of Streatham Court, presided over by his adored Mrs Thrale (whose wifely duties include poultices to testicles). This odd ménage is gossiped about and gawked at as child births and deaths, comeuppances and flirtations, swallowed buttons and skirmishes on staircases reveal as well as obscure unpalatable shifts of affection to the ageing Johnson and the composed but outraged Queeney.

Bainbridge's handling of the troubled, demanding and contrite Johnson and of Queeney, first as child observer and then as reluctant adult correspondent, are especially vivid, quirky and captivating. And this creation of sheer delight is underlayed by a delicate attention to the vulnerabilities of the human heart. --Ruth Petrie


A stellar literary event ... written with panache and an enviable economy ... the biggest risk of her literary life (Margaret Atwood)

This is a small, wise book of small prose miracles ... It is a larger miracle in this way: it makes us feel we see Johnson and his friends in unexpected and unfamiliar ways which are nevertheless convincing and authentic. I did not think anyone could do t (Andrew Marr, DAILY TELEGRAPH)

It is hard to think of anyone now writing who understands the human heart as Beryl Bainbridge does, or exposes its workings with more tenderness (THE TIMES)

This is a triumph, subtle, rich and heartrending...Anything worth reading is of course worth reading twice, and this is worth reading many times. (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 289 KB
  • Print Length: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (2 Dec. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #231,465 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having recently read a book about Samuel Johnson and his friendship with Richard Savage, I looked forward to reading this book about Johnson's friendship in his later life with Hester Thrale, who lived from 1741 to 1821, and whose writings are a vital source of information on Johnson's life. Her eldest daughter, another Hester (nicknamed "Queeney") was born in 1764 and died in 1857, and lived a full life, marrying the 1st Viscount Keith.

The novel begins with a prologue, though set in 1784 (after the main action of the novel), when a body is removed from a house to be taken for post mortem. At the time, the reader is not aware of who this corpse belonged to. The story then moves by chapters through the years 1765 to 1784, with the relationships of Samuel Johnson, Hester Thrale, Queeney, and their family and acquaintanced (including Johnson's household, Mrs Thrale's mother and other children, and more well-known figures such as David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds and others) moving through the years. Interspersed between the chapters are brief letters from Queeney dated from 1807 onwards, addressed to Miss Laetitia Hawkins, daughter of Sir John Hawkins, a friend for some years of Johnson, and to Fanny Burney.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; I can imagine it would be a bit confusing in parts if you approached the book with no knowledge of eighteenth-century England, or of Samuel Johnson and his circle. But the writing is engaging, the story-telling captivating, and the characters conveyed empathetically, although you did feel that none of them came across as particularly loveable. Totally recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I am very wary of reading what I call `mockumentary' or the genre of mixing documentary evidence with fiction because in amongst the truth there is dotted viciously or gently (depending on the writer) dollops of the writer's own assumption, prejudice and outright agenda to bend the truth into something other.
I did, however, enjoy reading this novel as I know nothing about Samuel Johnson...and, until I do my own research, still know nothing about Samuel Johnson; so I decided to read the storyline and all the characters of the novel as fiction.
The novel is narrated through the letters of "Queeney" the eldest child of a pretty dysfunctional family who gave Johnson the run of their home; and partly through the eyes of the author whose use of artistry raises more questions than answers. No matter how many times the story is read, the questions are left unanswered.
There are underlying allusions to sexual perversion and tension but essentially it is a story about the suffering of those who are born into or caught up in relationships that are conditional.
For people reading for the first time I would recommend ignoring any inner voice that is trying to understand immediately what is what and who is who; but just to be satisfied with getting a sense of the story, and then going back and re-reading to put much more of the flesh on the bones.
I know little about Beryl Bainbridge, but only true artists can engage their audience in such a way as in this novel.
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Format: Paperback
As a fan of Beryl Bainbridge I have been uncertain of her forays into historical fiction- 'Every Man For Himself' (set on board the Titanic) and 'Young Adolf' (an account of Hitler's visit to Liverpool "before he was [in]famous") were lacking something intrinsically necessary- good stories told to their fullest. But 'According to Queeney,' with its focus on the last 20 years in the life of Dr Johnson, is sublime, and easily matches 'The Birthday Boys,' Bainbridge's storytelling of Captain Scott's disastrous attempt at reaching the Antarctic.

Dr Johnson, first writer of an English dictionary, is portrayed as spoilt and childish in spite of (perhaps, because of) his genius. Held in the thrall of a not-altogether reciprocated love for a married woman, Hester Thrale, it is this lady's daughter, the 'Queeney' of the title, who suggests, in her later-year letters (positioned at the end of each chapter), what actually took place. Often there are discrepancies between what we read and what Queeney suggests happened and there is a great deal to consider between the lines- a consideration of the unreliable nature of memory; the bias that any spectator or storyteller will find hard to nip in the bud when directly involved; and the difficulty truth faces when it deals with legends. We hear, for instance, that Johnson's biographer-to-be, Boswell, follows the good Doctor around as if bewitched. Certainly he is too loved-up to recognise any of Johnson's faults. A visit to the Dr's hometown, Lichfield, has its people regaling his guests with stories of a shared history- but the Doctor denies knowledge of ever knowing them. Fame is a distorting lens just as is memory, just as is love or hate. Every thing is a story.
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Format: Paperback
Bainbridge has researched her subject well - I came away feeling that I had learned something about the characters of a number of famous names - James Boswell, Joshua Reynolds, Fanny Burney, etc. However, the tale itself felt disjointed at times with the technique of switching between centuries (Each chapter is interspersed with a letter from the older Queeney, looking back on her family acquaintance). Johnson himself seemed an improbably unattractive character in temperament for a much courted lady to be chasing. In fact, most of the characters have very few endearing features.
It was a pleasing enough book, but not as enjoyable as I thought it could have been.
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