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The Birthday Boys [Kindle Edition]

Beryl Bainbridge
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
Kindle Price: £5.99 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
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Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Book Description

Beryl Bainbridge gets better and better . . . she has succeeded with a daring leap of emphatic imagination in penetrating the minds of Captain Scott and the four men he led to their deaths in Antarctica in 1912' Patrick Skene Catling, Evening Standard

THE BIRTHDAY BOYS is classic Bainbridge - one of her absolute best. It is a fictional account of Captain Robert Scott's 1910 expedition to Antarctica told from the perspectives of five men on the voyage: Scott; Petty Officer Taff Evans; ship's medic Dr Edward Wilson; Lieutenant Henry Bowers; and Captain Lawrence Oates.

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Product Description


Bainbridge's account of the horribly familiar story is both fresh and sure-footed. The power of her imagination, her clarity of expression and mastery of language are more striking than anything else I have read this year (Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph)

A beautiful piece of story-telling. Far more accurately than any biography could do, it catches what must have been Scott's hold on his followers (Andro Linklater, Spectator)

Her darkest work, equally convincing in tis evocations of the icy, unendurable landscape without, and the chilling interior landscapes of damaged souls (Penny Perrick, Sunday Telegraph)

She writes of the hideous deprivations so boldly endured; the astounding beauties of the Antarctic landscapes; the personality clashes; the emotional reticences . . . It seems to me that Beryl Bainbridge has quite surpassed herself in a completely new im (Mary Hope, Financial Times)

Book Description

* A Bainbridge classic comes into Abacus paperback for the first time

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 299 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (26 Aug. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0049MPHYY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #107,003 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating and compelling 12 May 2002
By A Customer
When Captain Scott reached the south pole in 1912, he did so with a party of 4 other men. All very different characters, all with seperate motivations, backgrounds and outlooks. That's part of why the story of their expedition is still so fascinating. Beryl Bainbridge takes each important stage of the expedition, starting with the endless fundraising in England and the first meetings of the crew and finishing with Captain Oates' long walk into the blizzard and has a different explorer narrate it. She gets under the skin of each man so very perfectly and convincingly that it's sometimes difficult to remember that these are their fictionalised thoughts, not their journals and letters.
As someone who's read many of those journals and letters, I found each voice and attitude wonderfully realised. We all know how it's going to end, but the journey is a compelling one. Each man's frailties and strengths are touched on lightly but with conviction, in a way that seems utterly credible. Not just a book for armchair explorers but for anyone interested in how men's minds work.
And, however your mind works, at least one of these men will capture your imagination. Oates is the popular choice but I've always preferred Bowers. Witty cynicism is all very well, but in a tough spot, you can't beat hard-graft and demented optimism.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heroic - but slightly insane! 20 Oct. 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fictionalised version of the ill-fated Polar expedition led by Scott. Each chapter is narrated by a different member of the team. Knowing from the outset that these were the ones who died making the final journey to the South Pole made it all the more poignant. It is a beautifully written book which makes all the characters come alive.

Some of the errors made by the expedition are (seen in hindsight) unbelievable. Few of the team had any serious experience in either skiing or moving sledges with dog teams. The ponies were unsuitable for the terrain, as were the motor vehicles. Scott eventually chose (against all previous plans) to take five rather than four on the final push to the Pole - this had a damaging effect on their supplies which he failed to take into account.

Bainbridge treats all the men with honesty and sensitivity. She exhibits a real understanding of the mindset of the officer class of the Edwardian era - the divisions between officers and men, the feeling that using huge dog teams was "unsporting" and the virtue of stoicism.

A lovely book that led me to a greater understanding of a group of men who were heroic while at the same time slightly insane!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reveals the humans in a well known story 5 Oct. 2013
There are many biographies and histories written about Scott and his polar party, but Bainbridge brings the human element to the story, reflecting on the people, their motivations and ultimately their feelings as they walked towards death.

The book is written in five chapters, one for each of the final polar party, written from their perspective.

The common man, Petty Officer Evans, with his worries about money and his drink problems opens the book as the expedition sets out from Cardiff.

Class is forever present, and the final four chapters deal with the officer class.

Edward Wilson, deeply religious but leading the scientific programme. Highly reserved, he's still a person that everyone looks up to and consults for advice, which he gives reluctantly:

"Better to say nothing than to condemn, and to laugh with than to criticise, and so much happier."

Wilson was Scott's anchor, he protected the men from Scott's wrath and yet allowed Scott to get his problems off his chest, easing his stress.

Scott was a man of contrasting passions - at once the naval officer striving to lead, and yet he struggled to stamp his authority, feeling the weight of the entire endeavour weighing heavily on his shoulders. He was also a man of contradictions: criticising Shackleton from previous expeditions for carelessness and lacking attention to detail, and accusing Gran of laziness; yet Scott failed to calculate that five men attempting the final assault on the pole, when they had rations and space for only four could be disastrous.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning. 8 April 2002
By A Customer
This is very possibly the best book I have read. I greatly admire Bainbridge's writing, but even she has here surpassed herself. Her prose is spare yet precise and her writing is so skilful that she tells you everything in an astonishingly few words. She blends fact and fiction so convincingly that the reader is there with these poor men. Brave yet foolhardy, loyal yet desperate, she brings their famous and tragic story to life in a way I have never before encountered. A short book and one which you savour, trying to make it last, yet knowing that you will soon have finished it and go right back to the beginning to read it again. READ IT!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 16 Jan. 2011
"Living ashore hits men differently. Some shuffle back into it like they've found an old pair of slippers and others can't walk easy, no matter how they're shod."

The Birthday Boys is a fictionalised account of Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole, delivering at once a refresher course in historical events as well as a gifted writer's interpretation of those men's character and the dialogue that may have taken place.

In the opening chapters the story richly recreates the attitudes of early 1900's society, a society that celebrated, supported, sponsored and revered exploration, adventure and discovery. As the story develops, it is the harsh conditions and the challenges facing the expedition that are just as richly recreated, but in Bainbridge's typical style of word economy.

Each chapter is narrated by a different character on the expedition, painting a vivid picture of their own disposition and motivations for setting off on the trip as well as the harsh reality they faced as they struggled to be the first to reach the South Pole and then return alive. The book is a wonderful exploration of old fashioned virtues and manners, of courage and character under fire, a bold and startling picture of the challenges faced by those intrepid men. It's also a rich insight into Robert Falcon Scott, the leader of the expedition. Described in the book thus:

"He's absolutely sound as regards what's right, but he lacks conviction. He simply isn't stupid enough to be convinced his is the only way. In these circumstances, it's a dangerous trait."

we are exposed to his strengths, weaknesses and the tragic choices he made that lead to the expedition's success but also failure and ultimate tragedy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine story of an amazing group of men
I really enjoyed this book. As usual for a Beryl Bainbridge book it is a slim volume but all the best for it. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Cad
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written
Poignant and brilliantly written this short novel by Beryl Bainbridge is well researched and captures minute detail of the characters very well. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sam Pepys
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Definitely a winters tale
Published 4 months ago by Mr. V. J. Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
delivered as expectred - no issues at all
Published 9 months ago by adrian morris
4.0 out of 5 stars great read particularly if you know a bit about the ...
Book club book, great read particularly if you know a bit about the history - I didn't but still worth a read
Published 9 months ago by Helen W.
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside the minds of Scott's team
An enjoyable novel, looking at the Scott expedition from a different angle. It focussed on the five who went to the Pole, writing part of the story from the point of view of each... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Beejay
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought three Bainbridge books together and this was my favourite. The...
Bought three Bainbridge books together and this was my favourite. The others were An Awfully Big Adventure and According to Queeney.
Published 12 months ago by RosieLee
2.0 out of 5 stars A nice idea - but poorly realised
I liked the idea of the book much more than the book itself. I found the writing wooden and the characterizations shallow and based on well established stereotypes. Read more
Published 16 months ago by robert fletcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction blended with facts?
An unexpected title. I didn't expect the subject to be about Scott of the Antarctic but it was done done so well. Read more
Published 21 months ago by K. Slater
3.0 out of 5 stars Fact or fiction?
This is a cleverly constructed book - but ultimately I think I was a little disappointed.

Bainbridge sets out to tell part of the story of Robert Falcon Scott's... Read more
Published 22 months ago by John Brain
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