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
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)