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Master Georgie [Paperback]

Beryl Bainbridge
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 1999
A novel about one family's experiences in the Crimean War. When the Battle of Inkerman was over, five survivors were assembled in front of a camera. A sixth figure - Master Georgie - added symmetry to the group. In the distance a young woman circled round and round like a bird above a robbed nest.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Abacus; Open market ed edition (1 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349112223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349112220
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 17.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,549,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Beryl Bainbridge seems drawn to disaster. First she tackled the Unfortunate Scott expedition to the South Pole in The Birthday Boys; later (but emphatically pre-DiCaprio) came the sinking of the Titanic, in Every Man for Himself. Now, in her third historical novel (and her 16th overall), she takes on the Crimean War, and the result is a slim, gripping volume with all of the doomed intensity of the Light Brigade's charge--but, thankfully, without the Tennysonian bombast. "Some pictures," a character confides, "would only cause alarm to ordinary folk." There's a warning concealed here, and one that easily disturbed readers would do well to heed: Master Georgie is intense, disturbing, revelatory--and not always pretty to look at.

Bainbridge's narrative circles around the enigmatic figure of George Hardy, a surgeon, amateur photographer, alcoholic and repressed homosexual who counters the dissipation of his prosperous Liverpool life by heading for the Crimean Peninsula in 1854. His journey and subsequent tour of duty are told in three very different voices: Myrtle, an orphan whose lifelong loyalty to her "Master Georgie" becomes an overriding obsession; Pompey Jones, street urchin, fire-eater, photographer and George's sometime lover; and Dr. Potter, George's scholarly brother-in-law, whose retreat from the war's carnage and into books takes on a tinge of madness.

United by a sudden death in a Liverpool brothel in 1846, these characters plumb the curious workings of love, war, class and fate. In between, Bainbridge frames an unforgettable series of tableaux morts: a dying soldier, one lens of his glasses "fractured into a spider's web"; a decapitated leg, toes "poking through the shreds of a cavalry boot"; two dead men "on their knees, facing one another, propped up by the pat-a-cake thrust of their hands." Glimpsed as if sideways and then passed over in language that is as understated as it is lovely, these are images that sear into the brain. Master Georgie is full of such moments, horrors painted with an exquisite brush. --Mary Park --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


It is hard to think of anyone now writing who understands the human heart as Beryl Bainbridge does (THE TIMES)

Another masterly exploration by an author at the peak of her form ...She was always good at funny dialogue and acute observation of the oddities of human behaviour, but her recent historical explorations have given full reign to her startling powers of d (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

A quirky and compelling book, packed with witty observations and extraordinary characters, which really ought to have won the Booker prize, but missed it by a whisker. (DAILY MAIL)

The economy of Bainbridge's writing, for which she is famous, results in a slender novel with an astonishing range. (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some superb writing..... 1 Mar 2010
George Hardy, surgeon and photographer, travels from 19th century Liverpool to the Bosphorus at the start of the Crimean War. Chapters are narrated by different characters. These are Myrtle (his adoptive sister taken in as an orphan), Pompey Jones (a former street urchin turned photographer's assistant and sometime fire-eater) and Doctor Potter (his geologist friend).

Beryl Bainbridge writes superbly and both time and place are brilliantly captured. We are not spared the horrors of war but her approach is subtle. The disastrous charge of the Light Brigade is conveyed by the description of the many riderless horses appearing in their camp.

She cleverly uses the new technology of photography to help with the structure of the book and each chapter title describes a photographic scene - like a series of wonderful tableaux.

I was however less convinced by some of the characterisations. Georgie never really came alive for me and I remained unconvinced as to why Myrtle and Pompey should have been so devoted to him.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A True Test For Humanity - Master Georgie 23 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Beryl Bainbridge's novel Master Georgie is a fascinating insight into the Crimean war and the complex relationships of human beings. Written from differing persepectives, Bainbridge draws on the idea that all experiences are unique, and highlights differing techniques for dealing with extremes of human suffering.
Master Georgie, doctor and medical photographer, has a tremendous hold over all characters in the novel - so much so that they travel to accompany the doctor in his war efforts. Myrtle is besotted with George and vows never to leave his side, despite his obvious lack of interest in women. Bainbridge infers that he prefers the attentions of Pompey Jones, a photographer with whom he is having an implied homosexual relationship. Dr Potter seems to have the least tie to George, but is probably the most endearing character in the novel.
An ageing academic, Dr Potter avoids the personal trauma he is experiencing to think about his wife. He is a man of learning and an avid philosopher, who is used to dealing with situations rationally. War to Dr. Potter is merely unorganised chaos. When the group are ordered on to different locations, Dr. Potter's interest in geography takes over, and he takes in the scenery - his intellect is often his saviour. But Potter is a complex character. His coping mechanism tends to be to create humour out of potentially life-threatening situations. He admits that life is nothing without reading books and lying close to his wife. Potter's sentimentality is his downfall, and he sinks further into disarray by the end of the novel.
The novel is of interest as it deals with the stark clarity of the war situation and juxtaposes the ambiguity of relationships. It is most fascinating for the way in which different characters engage with the trauma surrounding them. An interesting comparison is Barker's novel, Regeneration, which deals with psychological and mental repercussions of war. A really good read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex, moving, beautifully cratfed 4 Feb 2008
At first glance Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge suggests it might be quite a light book, an easy read, a period piece set in the mid-nineteenth century. This would be wrong. Master Georgie is no safe tale of country house manners, of marriages imagined by confined, embroidering young women. Beryl Bainbridge's Master Georgie is anything but a tale of such saccharine gentility.

Master Georgie is a surgeon and photographer, and the book is cast in six plates - photographic plates, not chapters. Death figures throughout. From start to finish morbidity crashes into the lives of the book's characters. We begin with Mr Moody, dead in a brothel bed, his host of minutes before in shock. Later we move to the Crimean War, where the carnage is graphic, extensive and apparently random. And even then individuals find their own personal ways of adding insult and injury to the suffering.

The book uses multiple points of view. We see things Master Georgie's way. Myrtle, an orphan he takes in, adds her perspective. The fussy geologist, Dr Potter, imprints his own version of reality. And still there are less than explained undercurrents, undeclared motives which affect them all. Thus, overall, Master Georgie is a complex and ambitious novel. Though it is set in a major war, the backdrop is never allowed to dominate. The characters experience the consequences of conflict and register their reactions, but we are never led by the nose trough the history or the geography of the setting.

But we also never really get to know these people. Myrtle, perhaps, has the strongest presence. She has a slightly jaundiced, certainly pragmatic approach to life. But even she finds the privations of wartime tough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Style over substance 26 July 2012
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
More novella than novel, the book is set out as six 'Plates' (code for chapters). A different member of Georgie's entourage narrates each 'Plate' and Georgie never speaks for himself.

The narrators are all participants in Georgie's 'shame' as they follow him from Liverpool to the Crimean War. The 'shame' part was interesting and the diseased aspects of the Crimean War were strong. However, this was a low-key read overwhelmed by issues of technique and structure.

Ms Bainbridge is quoted as saying that Master Georgie needs to be read three times to 'appreciate' it, one wonders whether the fault lies with the author rather than the reader.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Way They See It
Bainbridge, Beryl. Master Georgie

Historical novels have a habit of being history in fancy dress. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. D. James
3.0 out of 5 stars The lure of battle
It seems that before young men had digital war games and films, they had to go and seek the real thing. This time it was the Crimea . Read more
Published 6 months ago by Auntie Jane
4.0 out of 5 stars Beryl Bainbridge at her best
This story follows a number of characters from Liverpool to the Crimea War. The characterisation is excellent and the background detail really informative. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2012 by Helen
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and Dull
This was my first Beryl Bainbridge and also my last . I found the different viewpoints from which the book was written to be irritating and confusing . Read more
Published on 28 Dec 2011 by Larpool
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the worst books ever
This book is really dire. There really is no storyline worth mentioning. There are several narrarors and it swaps between them several times. Read more
Published on 21 Dec 2011 by R. P. Sedgwick
3.0 out of 5 stars Just so so.
Like a previous reviewer, I picked up on Beryl Bainbridge after her recent death. In the face of other glowing reviews for Master Georgie, I cannot see what all the fuss is about... Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2011 by Warwick Holt
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment
The news of the death of Beryl Bainbridge last year made me want to read books by a very accomplished writer. In our book club we chose to read Master Georgie. Read more
Published on 31 Mar 2011 by Discerning Reader
3.0 out of 5 stars I tried
I read widely, so I thought I'd give this author a try. All I can say is, it's not for me, I became confused about who's viewpoint was being used. Read more
Published on 21 Aug 2010 by Sammysam
It's difficult to know quite where to begin here, in the face of such overwhelming praise from so many satisfied readers. Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2008 by Barry McCanna
4.0 out of 5 stars A great achievement
George Hardy, surgeon and photographer, sets of from Victorian England to do his patriotic duty in the Crimea. Read more
Published on 8 Oct 2007 by Didier
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