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on 19 September 2011
It's 1968 and Rose and Harold are on a road trip across the States in search of the elusive Dr Wheeler, who has been both a friend of Harold's and a father figure for Rose back in England. "The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress" focuses on the relationship between these two characters, the humour of their interactions, but also the tension between them which becomes increasingly more disturbing as Harold's exasperation with his unwanted travelling companion grows.

It is the character of Rose which makes this novel so compelling: uneducated, childlike, and with a traumatic past, she has an effect (for good or for bad) on everyone she meets, somehow managing to be present at any number of dramatic, even history-defining, events. Rose is a destabilizing presence, for example when her ingenuous (or disingenuous?) comments derail conversations between Harold and his liberal friends, and the reader is never quite sure what she will do next.

I was apprehensive about this book as Beryl Bainbridge died during its writing, leaving it unfinished. However, although I would love to know what Bainbridge would have done with the novel had she lived, this is still an enjoyable, well-written, and haunting book in its own right. I closed the book feeling sad that this is the last work from such a talented and distinctive writer.
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on 7 April 2015
I did so enjoy this book but was left high and dry with no proper ending. I do realise this was unavoidable with the death of Beryl Bainbridge but I just wish I knew what actually happened to the characters. Could there have been a happy ending?
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on 20 July 2015
It was an absorbing read but afterwards I thought "what was that all about then?" Makes me wonder if the author had been alive to see it through to its final edit, whether it would have been the same book.
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on 2 June 2013
I couldn't get interested in the characters and I didn't really understand what the point was of the whole book. I know Beryl Bainbridge died before the novel was completed.
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on 17 July 2014
so obviously unfinished!!
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 16 September 2011
Beryl Bainbridge has been one of my favourite authors for many years, so it was with some sadness that I read this, her last work. Although not completely finished, it just shows how brilliant an author she was, to create something so wonderful even when she was so ill.

When the book begins, Rose has just arrived in the US from England. She meets Washington Harold, a man she does not know well, but with whom she has a common interest. They are both searching for Dr Wheeler, although for very different reasons, which are difficult to explain without giving away the plot. Suffice it to say that Harold needs Rose, but they make an uncomfortable pair. Rose thinks Harold, "a soul immersed in darkness" and Harold finds Rose immature, annoying and unhygienic. Their misunderstanding intensifies as they drive from place to place, chasing the elusive Dr Wheeler, who is on the Robert Kennedy campaign trail.

During their travels, Rose and Harold go through different stages in their relationship. They are both reliant on each other and yet distrustful; at times disgusted and filled with hate or annoyance, at other times they try to be kind or comforting. Rose keeps up a constant chatter about her past and her relationships with everyone. There are references to the assassination of Martin Luther King, race riots, the Kennedys and a whole array of people that Harold and Rose meet along the way. It sometimes seems that everyone knows what is going on, or who suspect Harold's motives, apart from Rose. The surreal encounters on the road trip leave Harold and Rose more and more at cross purposes.

If you have not read Bainbridge before, this may not be the best novel to begin with, simply because she was not able to finish it as she would have wished. However, even with that, it is an excellent read and the characters are brilliantly written.
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on 19 July 2013
I read this for my first visit to a Book group. I realised that it wasn't finished but had the impression that the publishers had created an ending from her notes so I was really disappointed that there was no real ending! The geography of the journey didn't seem to make sense.
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on 30 October 2013
As Ms Bainbridge died before this book was published it has no ending. Up until the ending it was only mildly interesting, the characters are not in any way noteworthy and make little impression.
One wonders why on earth it was published at all.
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on 1 May 2015
I did not enjoy this book. Fionna
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on 7 April 2015
Absolutely hated it. Badly written, ugly story. Would not recommend it at all.
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