Customer Reviews


12 Reviews
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:
 (6)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awfully Good
Beryl Bainbridge is such a perfectionist that, according to a recent article in Mslexia, she is still trying to formulate the title of her present work in progress. Such consummate professionalism is clearly present in this mind-blowingly good novel.
Set in 1950, An Awfully Big Adventure chronicles the life of troubled Stella Bradshaw, an aspiring young actress...
Published on 13 Nov 2003 by Mrs. A. C. Whiteley

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars The humour is gentle but funny.
Seems rather dated now and one cannot imagine a young person being so ingenious these days .I am sure that if you were familiar with Liverpool there would be an extra interest. The humour is gentle but funny .
Published 1 month ago by Anne Farmer


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awfully Good, 13 Nov 2003
By 
Mrs. A. C. Whiteley "AllieW" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
Beryl Bainbridge is such a perfectionist that, according to a recent article in Mslexia, she is still trying to formulate the title of her present work in progress. Such consummate professionalism is clearly present in this mind-blowingly good novel.
Set in 1950, An Awfully Big Adventure chronicles the life of troubled Stella Bradshaw, an aspiring young actress making her first hesitant steps onto the professional stage. She rapidly becomes infatuated with Meridith, the company director, and, when he spurns her advances, she turns to O’Hara (stand-in for Hook in their production of Peter Pan), in an effort to make him jealous. This attempt badly misfires, however, as the quite brilliant ending proves (every bit as shocking in its way as that of Sixth Sense) and we are left to reflect on the perils of unrequited love, dark, powerful family secrets, and the crippling effect of war.
That Bainbridge achieves such multilayered depth in such a slim novel is nothing short of remarkable. An Awfully Big Adventure is beautifully crafted, tightly plotted – with absolutely no loose ends. She brings it to its awful denouement with devastating logic. And it is very subtly done: Bainbridge emphatically shows and studiously avoids telling. We are meant to infer her message from the drama of the narrative. She, as with other great novelists, allows the reader time and space to think – hence the exquisitely spare prose. I shall have to stop now, for fear of writing page after page of compliments. Suffice it to say, therefore, that An Awfully Big Adventure is wonderful in every way – character development, style and plot execution are all flawless. Truly, this is the perfect novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a very fine well made bottle of champagne, 22 Feb 2005
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
She writes beautifully and sparingly. You are straight into the story no messing about. The book is full of humour, skillfully drawn characters that you grasp within a few sentences but the narrative is always going somewhere. The clues are always there. The trick is not to get carried away and read it too fast. It ought to be savoured.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars "Dear God," said Grace, "Vermin are the responsibility of the landlord.", 10 Nov 2013
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
Working in rep in Liverpool in the early 1950s, Stella is a young girl, still in her teens, living with her Aunt Lily and Uncle Vernon, of whom she is sometimes callously ashamed. She has a tiny part in the play Bill of Divorcement and then goes on to make a success of a part in Anthony and Cleopatra as a young royal boy. The other characters are deftly described: "... there was nothing wrong with Dawn Allenby apart from her love of beauty, an affliction she was ill-equipped to fight." And: "Desmond Fairchild, a sadist in a trilby hat worn with the brim turned up all the way round like a vaudeville comic."

This novel sparks and flashes with humour at every turn, sometimes darkly, sometimes with the beautifully abrupt wit all her novels are known for: "Uncle Vernon had waited up for her. He'd wanted to escort her home but she had threatened to commit arson if he came within a quarter of a mile of the theatre. He'd kept her supper warm in a pot in the oven."

I can't recommend this book highly enough - just splendid. Though it's not quite a laugh a minute, and there are some very sad secrets, one in particular that is never properly brought out, but which caused me some puzzlement until I worked it out. Beryl Bainbridge died in 2010, but there will probably never be a better writer to lose out on the Booker Prize. I would particularly recommend a somewhat more serious book of hers, The Birthday Boys, which is about Scott's attempt to reach the North Pole, but anything she wrote is well worth reading - she never wrote a duff book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Priestley's Good Companions smacked about by Joe Orton, 24 Jan 2013
By 
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
The Good Companions is a lovely, warm, fuzzy, well written book (a favourite of mine) about the trials, tribulations, triumphs and tragedies of a small travelling music hall company in the 1920s

Jump forwards 30 years to the setting of Bainbridge's book about the trials, tribulations, triumphs (very few) and tragedies (quite a lot) of a Liverpool repertory company. Originally published in 1989, Bainbridge draws upon some of her own experiences as an actor around that time.

Gone is Priestley's enjoyable, rather sentimental approach. Instead, we have a blackly, bleakly funny and unholy mixture of sex, love, death and religion, all wrapped up in an atmosphere of lower middle-class prurience and and things which are not quite nice and musn't be mentioned (Orton's territory)

This is the story of Stella, an awkward, difficult, naive and impressionable mid-teens. She is also adept at wearing a don't tangle with me mask, making her appear much more hard-boiled and insensitive than she really is. Strings are pulled to get her a job as an ASM in the rep company, as her imaginative, rather histrionic abilities at play-acting her way through her life, suggest to those around her that she may have a theatrical gift.

Bainbridge structures her book beautifully, setting something up at the start, which is only finally revealed at the end, when she collapses, one by one, her house of cards, with a selection of hinted at revelations which are simultaneously as bleak, horribly funny, and shocking as Orton. There is as much going on here as there are in some of the major themes of Greek tragedy, except Bainbridge does the great trick of wrapping the tragedy with absurd, comedic touches.

I'm working through re-reading Bainbridge, following my reading of the wonderful Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend which connects her life, her writing and her art, and this was a wonderful re-read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars stella, 9 May 2010
By 
Mr. W. B. Clews "wanger" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
Set in the threadbare background of a Liverpool theatre shortly after the war, this is an unusual coming of age tale where Stella tries to find her own way in the world. Mortified by her aunt and uncle who look after her due to her mother disappearing many years ago, Stella is a catalyst for bringing down the entire theatre as she struggles to come to terms with her background. Memorably filmed by Mike Figgis and shortlisted for he Booker, this is a novel that benefits from reading again and again.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars The humour is gentle but funny., 11 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Seems rather dated now and one cannot imagine a young person being so ingenious these days .I am sure that if you were familiar with Liverpool there would be an extra interest. The humour is gentle but funny .
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An awfully big adventure, 24 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
I found it hard to get into but found it cleverly written.As I used to live in Liverpool it had a special relevance.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Youth and Ambition, 22 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
On the whole a very slow moving story. I found it a very disturbing book and wondered how much of it was due to experiences of the author
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging but ultimately unconvincing, 22 Oct 2008
By 
Caterkiller (Darlington, UK) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
There are some parts of this book that you cannot help but enjoy: the lack of glamour in the running of a provincial theatre where the cast complain about "the digs" and are forever tripping over carelessly discarded brooms and suchlike back stage. Bainbridge tries to do something more than just satirise the egos of minor celebs, however, she wants her main character, Stella, to go on a journey of discovery and this is where the book monumentally fails. Some revewiers have compared the denoument to "The Sixth Sense"; unfortunately it is nowhere near as good. By the end we already know that Stella is psychologically unbalanced by the way she quickly falls for Meredith (though we never learn precisely why) and the wayshe allows herself to be used and abused by multiple men throughout the book. Given the subject matter and characters Bainbridge could have done a lot more with this than she does. The writing is imaginative and I personally enjoyed the occassional flourishes of flowery prose usually employed when describing something quite mundane, but ultimately the plot could have been better.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-written and often unpleasant, 14 July 2006
This review is from: An Awfully Big Adventure (Paperback)
Bainbridge is an impressive writer, but so far from having a spare prose style, she has a tendency to over-write, for example: 'when the taxi, girdled by pigeons, swooshed from the curb'. The plot is intricate and the characterisation effective, but the book frequently contains disturbing incidents which are not necessary to the main theme, for instance: 'a boy carrying a sheet of glass under his arm came down the stairs. He was wearing outsize boots without laces. He tripped on the bottom step and, losing one boot, lunged forwards, cartwheeling across the pavement on that deadly crutch of glass. ...He lay perfectly still, brows arched in surprise, bare toes quivering as the blood drained out of him.'
This passage vividly illustrates Bainbridge's skill as a writer, but you may not wish to about such an incident. Overall the book might best be described as a tragi-comedy. There are some funny moments, but the ending is doubly sad.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

An Awfully Big Adventure
An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge (Paperback - 6 Feb 2003)
8.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews