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Bedford Park by [Appleyard, Bryan]
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Bedford Park Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Length: 285 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Review

a brilliantly lively, often very funny reconstruction of a lost world of artistic endeavour and social idealism. (SUNDAY TIMES)

Bryan Appleyard is our foremost guide to understanding contemporary culture. This exploration of what it means to be human today grips the reader from the front page. (John Gray)

There are great science writers and there are great art writers - and then there's Bryan Appleyard. He's both. (John Humphreys)

Bryan Appleyard is that rarest of birds, a journalist who can mine factual subjects for their poetic resonance right across the spectrum. He is our main man for this kind of writing. (Clive James)

One of the most interesting, curious, cultured and trenchant writers on this planet. (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of THE BLACK SWAN)

Bedford Park is a witty and erudite historical novel, set mostly in London in the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras...It is also a brilliantly lively, often very funny reconstruction of a lost world of artistic endeavour and social idealism through which Appleyard's American abroad wanders in a fruitless search for his true self. (Nick Rennison SUNDAY TIMES)

Appleyard has created this novel, set in the West London suburb of Bedford Park, around the lives of noted Edwardians...Beautifully written. (DAILY MAIL)

Deft characterisations...virtuoso language...dry and economical wit...excellent fiction. (THE SPECTATOR)

Review

Appleyard has created this novel, set in the West London suburb of Bedford Park, around the lives of noted Edwardians...Beautifully written. - Victoria Moore, DAILY MAIL<I>Bedford Park</I> is a witty and erudite historical novel, set mostly in London in the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras...It is also a brilliantly lively, often very funny reconstruction of a lost world of artistic endeavour and social idealism through which Appleyard's American abroad wanders in a fruitless search for his true self. - Nick Rennison, SUNDAY TIMES

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1235 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (11 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BCK1A56
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #346,550 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoy and admire the articles I have read by Bryan Appleyard, so was very pleased to see this new novel by him out last year. His usual preoccupations (architecture and popular science) provide an interesting basis for it. A number of real, historical, people wander through it, playing supporting roles. But what, oh what, is it all about? There is a rite of passage (which lasts an entire adult life). There is a foreigner's-eye view of London in general and the, apparently real, Bedford Park in particular. There is a violent death. There is some sex and a little love (not hand in hand). And there is an epilogue which cries out to be a prologue. I have to say I found it to be plot-free. This is unfortunate, as I do like a novel to have a plot. I know there are many readers of fiction for whom plot is inessential. To you I recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
Bedford Park in west London was the world’s first garden suburb. A planned community, its residents included poet William Butler Yeats, the painter Camille Pissarro, and many other actors, writers and artists.

“Bedford Park” is also the title of a 2013 novel by Bryan Appleyard, set mostly in the garden suburb. It is largely the story of Calhoun Kitt, a wealthy Chicagoan who leaves America and settles in London. Kitt tells the story of Bedford Park and its residents, and the larger story of London. And that story involves a rather gruesome murder, artistic people who seem to float from salon to fete and back to salon, and Kitt’s own inability to create a life for himself, instead simply responding to what s most forceful at the moment.

The cast of characters include both fictitious and actual people. Kitt is an invention, his name taken from a story by G. K. Chesterton. But Yeats and his muse Maud Gonne, Ezra Pound, Oscar Wilde, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, and the notorious Frank Harris were all very real people.

Kitt, the narrator and central figure of the story, wears dove gray suits at a time when men of fashion wear black. The color is symbolic – neither black nor white – and it captures Kitt’s general indecisiveness in matters of work and career, love, and even his friends. When a local Bedford Park resident, Brian Binks, is murdered and his body left on the area’s Acton Green, Kitt looks into it, but not too strenuously. Life for these favored people continues as if uninterrupted. Kitt will learn the identity of the murderer years later.

The Bedford Park residents enjoy their get-togethers and their planned activities. They dapple in spiritualism, popular at the time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With Bedford Park, Bryan Appleyard has created an extraordinary blend of crime thriller, evocative period piece, philosophical musings on will and intention, and in the process has created a novel of poetic richness. He has stuffed it full of exotic, larger-than-life characters, some real and some fictional. It is an ambitious book, posing many big questions, and is chock-full of allusions, references and recurring themes which are expertly handled. Journalism, and truth - even whether there is such a thing, or if it matters - form the backdrop to the activities in the London suburb.

An American, Cal Kidd, comes to London and immediately meets the exuberant Brian Binks in an ABC coffee shop. Following Binks's particularly gruesome murder, Cal gets drawn into the strange world of Bedford Park and its weird and colourful characters. He meets Oscar Wilde and Yeats, falls in love with Maud Gonne, gets punched by Ezra Pound, notating all carefully in ninety notebooks; Cal is a man who prefers writing to engaging with the world. Crucially, he remakes contact with Frank Harris, who he'd last seen in America, many years before. Ironically, Frank, the newspaper editor, prefers deeds to words, his self-will and sexual lust firing himself into action. The story charts Frank's decline and Cal's inevitable destiny, interwoven with evocative set-pieces.

The many themes - water, wetness and ice; fire and its effects, both literal and symbolic, windows, child prostitution, secrets, even the significance of looking at something from above or below - are handled and developed with great subtlety, like leitmotifs. Water plays a crucial role: the book begins and ends on water, characters are compared to it, as if flowing, connecting.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
From the dabbler.co.uk

First, of course, I must declare an interest: Appleyard and I go way back - two score years and more, man and boy. But I can declare, hand on heart, that if Bedford Park had come my way anonymously or from any other source, I would have hugely enjoyed it. It is, among other things, a great read - and one that doesn't leave you (me anyway) with that let-down, so-what feeling one gets at the end of so much contemporary fiction. Bedford Park, though, is only contemporary in the sense of having been written now. It is a novel of the `Edwardian' era, that high point of English, of European, of western culture, before the continent stumbled into a war that destroyed all the brightest hopes of civilisation - and it inhabits that period so completely that it could almost have been written then.

I share Appleyard's fascination with this lost golden age and its bright stars, so I was delighted to find many of them in the pages of his novel. Here are Yeats and Maud Gonne, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, the monstrous Frank Harris, the great journalist William Stead. And here is the mad, enchanted dream suburb of Bedford Park in West London, where these figures come and go - and beyond it the great Metropolis, the World City of its age, London, where the modern world is taking shape at bewildering speed, in bewildering forms. And, beyond that, the novel ranges as far as Chicago, and out to sea on a great ocean liner...

But (as the name suggests) the heart of Bedford Park is in that strange, hilarious suburb, that would-be Earthly Paradise of artists and intellectuals, idealists and lovers of beauty - the Saffron Park of Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.
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