Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Priestley's Good Companions smacked about by Joe Orton, 24 Jan 2013
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.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jan 2013 14:03:27 GMT
Great review of a wonderful book, Lady Fancifull. Re-reading BB is a good idea!

Are you also a fan of her great friend Alice Thomas Ellis?

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2013 14:31:50 GMT
Thanks Sue, yes - you might be pointing me towards a re-read of The Clothes in the Wardrobe, which is somewhere on the Shelves!

If you haven't seen the Psiche Hughes book I mention you might like it - the reproductions of the pictures are lovely and the book added a layer of understanding for me, hence the desire to re-read with that in mind.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2013 15:06:20 GMT
Thanks Lady Fancifull. Yes, it looks good - will see if I can order it from library *can't afford to keep buying books*!

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2013 15:31:10 GMT
Keep reviewing - you never know you might get a Vine invite which can be great - though it tends you introduce you to authors and you then start buying their back catalogue! My 'spend' om Amazon has increased enormously since getting on Vine

If you have an eReader, have a look at netgalley.com There is also goodreads - various sites which are dedicated to keen readers who review and publishers who are anxious to get early reviews for their authors - ordinary readers, not just professional reviewers, and you can get review copies

Course, you very quickly find you have little time for anything but reading.........

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2013 15:42:57 GMT
How ironic that your Amazon spending should increase with Vine!

I don't enjoy reading on a screen - do you? Much prefer the heft of a book.

Have heard mention of this goodreads before - do they send out ARCs? Sounds like I should look into it, in any event.

Reading all the time, yes, occasionally interrupted by cooking!

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2013 15:58:31 GMT
I believe they do, though it is a bit of a bidding war! I think that is the site I subscribed to at one point - everyone who asks for a copy and then I guess they do the equivalent of names out of a hat for the numbers of copies they have. Never been successful so rather stopped using it.

I am happy reading on a Kindle (unless book is heavily illustrated) as i have no more space for books which currently now occupy chair and floor space, and i periodically have to take a foot of books to Oxfam in order to create a foot of bookshelf space. Books now in 4 figure numbers and no more wall space! But yes, I argued against Kindles, till space forced the decision

I do think the old Kindle keyboard and I assume the Paperwhite, are the same on the eyes (possibly better as you can alter font size) as the real thing though I do like handling books, the feel and smell of them, and the ease of underlining, adding comments etc etc. The quality of memory in picking up a book you last read 10 years ago and finding shopping lists, bus tickets etc inside, used as bookmarks!

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2013 16:13:06 GMT
I read Hitchens' Arguably on the iPad - thousands of footnotes and every time I referred to one, I couldn't get back to my place in the book - put me right off reading on it!

I'm going to have to start double-banking up the bookshelves even though I get most of my books from the library. I order mainly from newspaper reviews. This makes me very late in reviewing things so the reviews are often quite low down on Amazon and doubt I'll be invited onto Vine - though it does sound good.

If they're fat books, I tend to find pressed flowers!
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