The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress by Beryl Bainbridge - review by Francis King

Francis King

Dressed To Kill

The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress

By

Little, Brown 201pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

When, many years ago, we were both resident in Brighton, Somerset Maugham’s nephew Robin would from time to time telephone to say that it was far too long since we had ‘surveyed the literary scene together’ – a phrase that he favoured – and how about meeting up for lunch or dinner? In fact, what he really wanted to survey was not the literary scene but his own ambitious part in it. We would then spend an hour or two discussing the progress of his latest novel in every smallest detail. Of course I felt flattered to be treated as his unacknowledged collaborator. But I could not help wishing that, on just one occasion, he would ask me: ‘And what about that book of yours?’ 

Robin Maugham’s behaviour was unlike that of every other novelist that I then knew, including Beryl Bainbridge. It was as though each of them feared that, by talking about his or her work in progress, that would somehow prevent it from flowing onwards in full spate. ‘What are

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