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The Birthday Boys [Hardcover]

Beryl Bainbridge
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1994

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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub; Reprint edition (April 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786700718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786700714
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,182,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

* A Bainbridge classic comes into Abacus paperback for the first time --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning. 8 April 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating and compelling 12 May 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heroic - but slightly insane! 20 Oct 2008
By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 16 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback
"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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book 12 Oct 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As good a read as anyone could want. Beryl Bainbridge captures the essence of Scott and his colleagues, their preparations for the trip and the enormous (& fatal) challenge they took on. For me the book brought the people on the expedition to life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 3 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 7 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 9 months ago by John Brain
5.0 out of 5 stars Reveals the humans in a well known story
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... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. J. Tweedie
4.0 out of 5 stars An awesome adventure
Enjoyed the story from the perspective of different members of the party. Would have liked a map to pinpoint the way they taversed the Antarctic. (The repro. Read more
Published 12 months ago by M.E.WESTWOOD
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting adventure.
Working in Year 5-6 classes in a Primary School, this book fitted perfectly with our current topic: Antarctica. Read more
Published 17 months ago by JaneyG
3.0 out of 5 stars Frozen in time
This is a fictional account of Scott's last fatal quest for the South Pole, told through the sequential accounts of members of the expedition. Read more
Published 20 months ago by gerardpeter
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
As a supporter of Scott and an owner of many, many book on the Terra Nova expedition I had hoped this would be a fascinating take on the events. Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2012 by Russell Bowden
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better second time around!
I first read this fictionalised retelling of the Terra Nova polar expedition several years back and it was the first thing on the subject I read. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2012 by Dr. Rox
4.0 out of 5 stars The antithesis to a dry, historical tale
This highly individual book, from the much loved and missed Beryl Bainbridge, is the antithesis to a dry, historical tale of Scott's fateful Antarctic expedition. Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2011 by David Briddock
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