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An Awfully Big Adventure [Kindle Edition]

Beryl Bainbridge
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

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.

Product Description


Vintage bittersweet Bainbridge (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

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 (SUNDAY TIMES)

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 (TIME OUT)

Book Description

*'This is one of Bainbridge's best books. The close observation and hilarity are underlain by a sense of tragedy as deep as any in fiction' THE TIMES

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 234 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (2 Dec. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349116156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349116150
  • ASIN: B0049MPHDU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #112,836 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awfully Good 13 Nov. 2003
By Mrs. A. C. Whiteley VINE VOICE
Beryl Bainbridge is such a perfectionist that, according to a recent article in Mslexia, she is still trying to formulate the title of her present work in progress. Such consummate professionalism is clearly present in this mind-blowingly good novel.
Set in 1950, An Awfully Big Adventure chronicles the life of troubled Stella Bradshaw, an aspiring young actress making her first hesitant steps onto the professional stage. She rapidly becomes infatuated with Meridith, the company director, and, when he spurns her advances, she turns to O’Hara (stand-in for Hook in their production of Peter Pan), in an effort to make him jealous. This attempt badly misfires, however, as the quite brilliant ending proves (every bit as shocking in its way as that of Sixth Sense) and we are left to reflect on the perils of unrequited love, dark, powerful family secrets, and the crippling effect of war.
That Bainbridge achieves such multilayered depth in such a slim novel is nothing short of remarkable. An Awfully Big Adventure is beautifully crafted, tightly plotted – with absolutely no loose ends. She brings it to its awful denouement with devastating logic. And it is very subtly done: Bainbridge emphatically shows and studiously avoids telling. We are meant to infer her message from the drama of the narrative. She, as with other great novelists, allows the reader time and space to think – hence the exquisitely spare prose. I shall have to stop now, for fear of writing page after page of compliments. Suffice it to say, therefore, that An Awfully Big Adventure is wonderful in every way – character development, style and plot execution are all flawless. Truly, this is the perfect novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Working in rep in Liverpool in the early 1950s, Stella is a young girl, still in her teens, living with her Aunt Lily and Uncle Vernon, of whom she is sometimes callously ashamed. She has a tiny part in the play Bill of Divorcement and then goes on to make a success of a part in Anthony and Cleopatra as a young royal boy. The other characters are deftly described: "... there was nothing wrong with Dawn Allenby apart from her love of beauty, an affliction she was ill-equipped to fight." And: "Desmond Fairchild, a sadist in a trilby hat worn with the brim turned up all the way round like a vaudeville comic."

This novel sparks and flashes with humour at every turn, sometimes darkly, sometimes with the beautifully abrupt wit all her novels are known for: "Uncle Vernon had waited up for her. He'd wanted to escort her home but she had threatened to commit arson if he came within a quarter of a mile of the theatre. He'd kept her supper warm in a pot in the oven."

I can't recommend this book highly enough - just splendid. Though it's not quite a laugh a minute, and there are some very sad secrets, one in particular that is never properly brought out, but which caused me some puzzlement until I worked it out. Beryl Bainbridge died in 2010, but there will probably never be a better writer to lose out on the Booker Prize. I would particularly recommend a somewhat more serious book of hers, The Birthday Boys, which is about Scott's attempt to reach the North Pole, but anything she wrote is well worth reading - she never wrote a duff book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
The Good Companions is a lovely, warm, fuzzy, well written book (a favourite of mine) about the trials, tribulations, triumphs and tragedies of a small travelling music hall company in the 1920s

Jump forwards 30 years to the setting of Bainbridge's book about the trials, tribulations, triumphs (very few) and tragedies (quite a lot) of a Liverpool repertory company. Originally published in 1989, Bainbridge draws upon some of her own experiences as an actor around that time.

Gone is Priestley's enjoyable, rather sentimental approach. Instead, we have a blackly, bleakly funny and unholy mixture of sex, love, death and religion, all wrapped up in an atmosphere of lower middle-class prurience and and things which are not quite nice and musn't be mentioned (Orton's territory)

This is the story of Stella, an awkward, difficult, naive and impressionable mid-teens. She is also adept at wearing a don't tangle with me mask, making her appear much more hard-boiled and insensitive than she really is. Strings are pulled to get her a job as an ASM in the rep company, as her imaginative, rather histrionic abilities at play-acting her way through her life, suggest to those around her that she may have a theatrical gift.

Bainbridge structures her book beautifully, setting something up at the start, which is only finally revealed at the end, when she collapses, one by one, her house of cards, with a selection of hinted at revelations which are simultaneously as bleak, horribly funny, and shocking as Orton.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a very fine well made bottle of champagne 22 Feb. 2005
She writes beautifully and sparingly. You are straight into the story no messing about. The book is full of humour, skillfully drawn characters that you grasp within a few sentences but the narrative is always going somewhere. The clues are always there. The trick is not to get carried away and read it too fast. It ought to be savoured.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars loved the book, how the world has changed
Loved it was transported back into the 60s and the sexual climate then
Published 2 months ago by brenda carr
3.0 out of 5 stars Good characterisation. Captures the atmosphere of 1950's Liverpool
An intriguing novel of dark intrigue. Good characterisation. Captures the atmosphere of 1950's Liverpool.
Published 2 months ago by Robert Butcher
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyed it.
Published 6 months ago by RosieLee
3.0 out of 5 stars The humour is gentle but funny.
Seems rather dated now and one cannot imagine a young person being so ingenious these days .I am sure that if you were familiar with Liverpool there would be an extra interest. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Anne Farmer
3.0 out of 5 stars An awfully big adventure
I found it hard to get into but found it cleverly written.As I used to live in Liverpool it had a special relevance.
Published 18 months ago by hawthorn
3.0 out of 5 stars Youth and Ambition
On the whole a very slow moving story. I found it a very disturbing book and wondered how much of it was due to experiences of the author
Published on 22 Feb. 2013 by Joyce Richmond
4.0 out of 5 stars A 1950's provincial repertory company through the eyes of a naive...
The company of a 1950's Liverpool repertory company with its huge mix of egoes provides Bainbridge with a perfect vehicle for her brilliant descriptive powers. Read more
Published on 30 May 2011 by jonny
3.0 out of 5 stars An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge
It seemed very dated and slow to start but as it was written in the style of the period then I suppose this was to be expected. Read more
Published on 6 Sept. 2010 by Fiona McPhee
5.0 out of 5 stars stella
Set in the threadbare background of a Liverpool theatre shortly after the war, this is an unusual coming of age tale where Stella tries to find her own way in the world. Read more
Published on 9 May 2010 by Mr. W. B. Clews
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging but ultimately unconvincing
There are some parts of this book that you cannot help but enjoy: the lack of glamour in the running of a provincial theatre where the cast complain about "the digs" and are... Read more
Published on 22 Oct. 2008 by Caterkiller
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