Stoddard Martin

Every Woman for Herself

Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means – A Biography

By Brendan King

Bloomsbury 564pp £25 order from our bookshop

Beryl Bainbridge’s best novels are hardly more than novellas: Injury Time (1977) runs to 158 generously spaced pages, Every Man for Himself (1996) to only a few dozen more. Her early books are black comedies in an autobiographical vein, featuring teenage girls in the north of England and single mums in scruffy 1970s London. Later ‘historical’ books focus on moments of crisis for a decaying imperial Britain and offer moral solutions without appearing didactic. That Bainbridge was not at home in the international sphere was apparent in her last effort, set in late 1960s America and incomplete at her death. While she worked at extending her range in place as well as in time, setting tales in Antarctica, on the Titanic and in Crimea, it was always personality and national identity that absorbed her, and the earthy and shrewd aspects of her oeuvre are what will continue to give pleasure to readers.

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