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Bedford Park [Paperback]

Bryan Appleyard
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 5.94 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

5 Jun 2014

Set in 1912, Bedford Park is not just a London suburb: it is a crucible for enlightenment and modernity inhabited by people who wish to better themselves - and those who should know better. It is a singular place, architecturally sidestepping the modern whilst encouraging those with new ideas to take up residence.

Into this mix sails Cal Kidd from America. In a coffee-house he makes the acquaintance of Binks, a man whose occupation in the City is vague but he seems to know everybody. And so Cal meets real-life characters like Maud Gonne and Frank Harris, while Ford Madox Ford, W.B. Yeats and Joseph Conrad appear also. Then Binks is gruesomely murdered, and after never really having to deal with anything in his life, Cal the observer now has to act.

The spirit of the age is what makes BEDFORD PARK so evocative, a time when everyone tries to invoke the future but often looks to the past to achieve it. Among the host of vivid characters, the greatest is London itself, a city in a constant state of flux whose centre is journalism. All the detail makes the place exotic and exciting - the marathon at the Olympics in 1908, a ride on the Flip Flap in White City, news being chalked up on dock walls for those who couldn't afford papers, a woman peeling potatoes in the Biosphere cinema in Bishopsgate. London has to comment instantly upon itself or be commented upon, always new and important.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (5 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780228384
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780228389
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

a brilliantly lively, often very funny reconstruction of a lost world of artistic endeavour and social idealism. (SUNDAY TIMES 2014-06-01)

Book Description

An evocative historical thriller based in one of London's original suburbs.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A maze without a centre... 22 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
With Bedford Park, Bryan Appleyard has created an extraordinary blend of crime thriller, evocative period piece, philosophical musings on will and intention, and in the process has created a novel of poetic richness. He has stuffed it full of exotic, larger-than-life characters, some real and some fictional. It is an ambitious book, posing many big questions, and is chock-full of allusions, references and recurring themes which are expertly handled. Journalism, and truth - even whether there is such a thing, or if it matters - form the backdrop to the activities in the London suburb.

An American, Cal Kidd, comes to London and immediately meets the exuberant Brian Binks in an ABC coffee shop. Following Binks's particularly gruesome murder, Cal gets drawn into the strange world of Bedford Park and its weird and colourful characters. He meets Oscar Wilde and Yeats, falls in love with Maud Gonne, gets punched by Ezra Pound, notating all carefully in ninety notebooks; Cal is a man who prefers writing to engaging with the world. Crucially, he remakes contact with Frank Harris, who he'd last seen in America, many years before. Ironically, Frank, the newspaper editor, prefers deeds to words, his self-will and sexual lust firing himself into action. The story charts Frank's decline and Cal's inevitable destiny, interwoven with evocative set-pieces.

The many themes - water, wetness and ice; fire and its effects, both literal and symbolic, windows, child prostitution, secrets, even the significance of looking at something from above or below - are handled and developed with great subtlety, like leitmotifs. Water plays a crucial role: the book begins and ends on water, characters are compared to it, as if flowing, connecting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That Would-Be Earthly Paradise 17 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
From the dabbler.co.uk

First, of course, I must declare an interest: Appleyard and I go way back - two score years and more, man and boy. But I can declare, hand on heart, that if Bedford Park had come my way anonymously or from any other source, I would have hugely enjoyed it. It is, among other things, a great read - and one that doesn't leave you (me anyway) with that let-down, so-what feeling one gets at the end of so much contemporary fiction. Bedford Park, though, is only contemporary in the sense of having been written now. It is a novel of the `Edwardian' era, that high point of English, of European, of western culture, before the continent stumbled into a war that destroyed all the brightest hopes of civilisation - and it inhabits that period so completely that it could almost have been written then.

I share Appleyard's fascination with this lost golden age and its bright stars, so I was delighted to find many of them in the pages of his novel. Here are Yeats and Maud Gonne, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, the monstrous Frank Harris, the great journalist William Stead. And here is the mad, enchanted dream suburb of Bedford Park in West London, where these figures come and go - and beyond it the great Metropolis, the World City of its age, London, where the modern world is taking shape at bewildering speed, in bewildering forms. And, beyond that, the novel ranges as far as Chicago, and out to sea on a great ocean liner...

But (as the name suggests) the heart of Bedford Park is in that strange, hilarious suburb, that would-be Earthly Paradise of artists and intellectuals, idealists and lovers of beauty - the Saffron Park of Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A place in history 21 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fascinating tale that brings to life the early days of the first garden suburb and some of the characters of late 19th century London - in particular the lascivious Frank Harris, Maud Gonne, WB Yeats and the Russian anarchist Serge Stepniak. Using Bedford Park - which John Betjeman once described as probably the most significant suburb in the western world - for his background, Appleyard paints a compelling picture of the aesthetic community yet reflects the excitement of its radical architecture and plan. I had hoped for larger roles for the estate's developer Jonathan Carr and the curious American cleric Moncure Conway (founder of the Conway Hall) - mysterious characters who I would have enjoyed seeing through Appleyard's pyschoanalytical eye. It is a dark story and in its relationship of architecture, place and history I was frequently reminded of Ackroyd's Hawksmoor as I read this enjoyable yarn.
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