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
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)
From the Back Cover
'The First Plate. Liverpool. 1846.'
MYRTLE IN THE PRESENCE OF DEATH
'I was twelve years old the first time Master Georgie ordered me to stand stock still and not blink. He had me rest my hand on Mr Hardy’s shoulder. Mr Hardy didn’t have to be told to keep still because he was dead.'
'The Final Plate. The Crimea. 1854.'
SMILE, BOYS, SMILE
'“What we want is a posed group of survivors to show the folks back home. I need another soldier. Fetch one.”
Master Georgie was carried to the camera. He slumped forward and the soldier to his right supported him round the waist.
“Smile, boys, smile,” urged the photographer. Behind, on the brow of the hill, was Myrtle, circling round and round, like a bird above a robbed nest.'
Bewteen these frozen moments the relationship of Master Georgie and the foundling Myrtle develops, a relationship born of love, obsession, dependence and trust.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.