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Harriet Said...: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 211) by [Bainbridge, Beryl]
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Harriet Said...: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 211) Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Review

An extremely original and disconcerting story (Daily Telegraph)

A sharp, chilling novel . . . The ending has real shock effect (Sunday Times)

Compelling, horrifying, dramatic . . . [a] Molotov cocktail of teenage insecurity and dangerously partial understanding of maturity (Evening Standard)

Book Description

The classic novel - the first she ever wrote - by acclaimed, Man Booker Prize-winning author Beryl Bainbridge, Harriet Said... is a dark and gripping story of adolescent transgression set in a 1950s seaside resort.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 872 KB
  • Print Length: 193 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (6 Dec. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009EQHJP0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #112,753 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A really intense, atmospheric and disturbing novel, set in a seaside town around 1950. The hefty 13 year old narrator is dominated by her adored chum Harriet. A knowing teen, able to charm those around her while secretly mocking them, Harriet determines what the pair will get up to one long, hot summer. On the cusp of adulthood, they are keen to try out their attractions on the men around them, and the narrator imagines she is falling for 'The Tsar', an unhappily married older man and friend of her father. But when the Tsar dares tell Harriet a few home truths, she involves her friend in a plot to humiliate him and his wife...
Beryl Bainbridge vividly conjures up the post-War era, and the adolescent mind. The general theme of the story is based around the true-life teenage killers featured in the movie 'Heavenly Creatures'.
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Format: Paperback
Narrated in the first person by a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl (whose name we never learn) 'Harriet Said...' is the gripping story of two sexually precocious teenagers, set shortly after the end of the Second World War. At the beginning of this unsettling tale, our narrator returns from boarding school to her quiet, very ordinary Merseyside home, where she waits impatiently to be reunited with her childhood friend Harriet, whom, we are led to believe, is the dominant partner of the two, and the instigator of past misdemeanours.

Both Harriet (the more confident, attractive and flirtatious of the two girls) and our narrator (a plump, pale-skinned, frizzy-haired girl) have already discovered their sexual power over men, and they have decided that this summer they intend to use this power to manipulate and humiliate a middle-aged unhappily married man, nicknamed the Tsar, who has shown that he is sexually attracted to our thirteen-year-old narrator. But who is ultimately more damaged as a result - the teenage girls or the middle-aged man?

Beryl Bainbridge's debut novel, which was first written in the 1950s but, due to its content, refused publication until 1972 (when it was acclaimed as a minor masterpiece), is a dark, horribly fascinating and deeply disconcerting story which left me thinking about the possible repercussions for some time after I had finished it. It would be interesting to discuss this story further, but as I cannot do so without spoiling the story for prospective readers, I won't say anything further - however I will just mention that I think most readers will be surprised or, perhaps, even rather shocked by the ending.

4 Stars.
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Format: Kindle Edition
HARRIET SAID
Beryl Bainbridge

The first novel by a prize winning author was finished in 1958 but rejected by a number of publishers as being too disturbing a tale for the public to stomach. Recent media coverage of horrific episodes involving teenagers and young children would suggest that events such as portrayed in this book are not uncommon. Is that the reason it is now re-issued after some years out of print?
The narrator, an unnamed 13 year old girl, returns to her small Merseyside town for the summer holidays. Her only friend appears to be Harriet, one year older, with whom she is enthralled. Harriet possesses all the attributes the narrator lacks, good looks, personality, confidence and charisma, all of which are used to control and manipulate the younger girl.
Harriet brags of a relationship she had with a nineteen year old boy so her rather naive friend mentions that she has often been speaking to a nondescript local man, Mr Biggs, whom they nickname the Tsar. Harriet immediately leaps on this and cleverly manipulates the other girl into situations over which she has little control while Harriet smiles sweetly disguising the subtle plans in her evil little mind. She is a dominant and devious girl who appears to have total control over the narrator. Both are bored in the quiet town and Harriet schemes to befriend the Tsar, initially by more or less stalking him but the end plan is that the girls will get close to him and leave before leaving him humiliated.
They soon know his routine and follow him, casually bumping into him walking in the woods, visiting the church, or strolling along the beach. Harriet carefully pushes the other girl towards the man into a contrived closer relationship until the younger girls is clumsily almost seducing him.
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 July 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Harriet is quite a clever girl, but where does cleverness leave off and hatred and slyness and lying and casual cruelty take over? Not that any of the adults in this strange little story are free from calumny of the worst kind. Harriet knows how to manipulate the species of male involved. There is the elderly yearning of the man they have christened The Tsar and his perky younger acolyte, Mr Hind who, along with some of the other men of the seaside village, would like to be involved, but are not. And sitting at the centre of her web is the spidery Harriet.

The girls are thirteen. I checked my own memory for how it felt to be thirteen – it is too long ago. There was no-one like Harriet in my secondary school. We all wanted to be film stars or air-hostesses, or something other than what we were – it did not matter what, just something other than schoolgirls. I wondered how it came to be that Harriet hated The Tsar, a gentlemanly man, inoffensive, certainly no predator. It might be that she saw his weakness more clearly than anyone else. That she came to despise it, and Harriet used her friend (who as far as I can see is never named, however central she is to the story, being the narrator). I do wish she had given her narrator a name. She has a sister called Frances so why not name the narrator?

So she is thirteen and she has persuaded herself that she’s in love with The Tsar and here it all becomes rather murky. Bainbridge is not worried that we don’t know what happens between her and the man. She has very cleverly shrouded it in one or two moments, though the narrator does say at one point that losing her virginity was no worse than going to the dentists. Yes, this is a story about child abuse.
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