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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a comic masterpiece
Beryl Bainbridge takes a caste of her characteristic grotesque-mundane characters to Soviet Russia with all their compulsions, banalities and neurotic tics, bag and baggage, transporting them to a world of bureaucracy and incomprehensible muddle in which the unaccountable is the normal. Bainbridge plays the full gamut of her comic tricks with her displaced persons,...
Published on 17 Jan 2001 by stevie davies

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Winter Garden, 3.5 Stars.
Beryl Bainbridge's 'Winter Garden' focuses on Douglas Ashburner, a seemingly reliable and respectable lawyer, married to his wife for twenty-six years. But Douglas is not quite as reliable, or as predictable as others might think, for he is having an extra-marital affair with the lovely Nina, a rather capricious artist who causes Douglas to suffer from a number of...
Published 8 days ago by Susie B


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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a comic masterpiece, 17 Jan 2001
This review is from: Winter Garden (Paperback)
Beryl Bainbridge takes a caste of her characteristic grotesque-mundane characters to Soviet Russia with all their compulsions, banalities and neurotic tics, bag and baggage, transporting them to a world of bureaucracy and incomprehensible muddle in which the unaccountable is the normal. Bainbridge plays the full gamut of her comic tricks with her displaced persons, especially the helpless Ashburner who doesn't know why he's there, what he's doing, where his mistress or his luggage are and why his only possession is his fishing rod, which he took along to convince his wife (who couldn't give a bean anyway) that he was going for a piscatory holiday in Scotland. Style is superb, full of comic deflations and bathos, sharp arabesques, swoops and dives of pitch, in which the 'little people' engrossed in their own obsessive concerns negotiate terra incognita. Told with a knowing terse naivete typical of earlier Bainbridge. The central symbol of the Winter Garden refers to the bare patch of earth in Ashburner's back garden, never reached by sun, and icy Mother Russia. Displacement is a metaphor for all Bainbridge's people, who move through a demonic dream in which both anxiety and comic tension build, crazily lurching to a predestined conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Winter Garden, 3.5 Stars., 8 April 2014
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Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Winter Garden (Paperback)
Beryl Bainbridge's 'Winter Garden' focuses on Douglas Ashburner, a seemingly reliable and respectable lawyer, married to his wife for twenty-six years. But Douglas is not quite as reliable, or as predictable as others might think, for he is having an extra-marital affair with the lovely Nina, a rather capricious artist who causes Douglas to suffer from a number of sleepless nights. When Nina asks Douglas to join her on a trip to Moscow, where she has been invited as a guest of the Soviet Artists' Union, Douglas agrees, but tells his wife he is going fishing in Scotland. However, no sooner has he made the decision to go, then Douglas almost wishes something would happen to prevent him going and when he arrives at the airport, having surrendered his luggage and all of fishing paraphernalia, and meets Nina's artist friends, Bernard and Enid, Douglas begins to wonder whether he is doing the right thing - especially when he learns that Bernard is a minor celebrity who, on his first appearance on television, called the interviewer a pr*ck for confusing an etching with an engraving. When he arrives in Moscow, Douglas's misgivings increase even further when his suitcase goes missing, and he becomes terrified that instead of being reunited with his luggage in Russia, his suitcase will be returned home to his wife. A missing suitcase, however, is not all that Douglas has to worry about, because very soon Nina also goes missing, but I shall say no more as this is a very slim novel and I should like to leave the rest of Douglas's Russian adventure for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

'Winter Garden' is, like many of Beryl Bainbridge's novels, a darkly amusing tale written by an author whose has a sharp and very perceptive eye. It is true, that in a book of this brief length, we cannot really get to know very much about the characters or their motivations and, in consequence I felt I was not as concerned about their dilemmas as perhaps I would have liked to have been - however, that said, although this is not my favourite of the author's many novels, I nevertheless enjoyed the story and found it an amusing, entertaining and undemanding read .

3.5 Stars.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A FRIGHTFUL LOAD OF OLD TOSH, 30 Aug 2008
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Barry McCanna (Normandy, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter Garden (Paperback)
I began reading this with high hopes, based on the extracts of reviews on the back cover which proclaimed "razor sharp", "very funny" and "marvellously deft", but my expectations were soon dashed. The scenario is promising and in the right hands could have been hilarious, but that is not how it pans out. There is virtually no background, and the characters are inadequately described for us to work up much enthusiasm about what happens to them. In fact the author's approach is quite undisciplined, as if it's too much trouble to set the thing down properly. There is no sense of tension or narrative thread, the plot (for want of a better expression) meanders about and loses itself, and turning the page becomes a chore. It was a blessed relief when the mass of loose ends finally overcame their creator, whose joy at producing the inconsequential end could not have surpassed my own at reaching it.

Just as a footnote, the book seems to lack careful editing and proof-reading. On page 5 the hero (sic) remembers his wife singing "The sun has put his hat on", which makes you wonder what parallel universe he (or rather the author) inhabits. On page 42 "Nina advised againt", on page 74 "He said deferntially...." and on page 152 "...strutting up and down in plimsols..." But maybe the people at Abacus couldn't be bothered either.
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Winter Garden
Winter Garden by Beryl Bainbridge (Paperback - 4 Dec 2003)
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