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.
Bainbridge was born in Liverpool in 1932. Her father was a small businessman who went bankrupt but later helped her make her way in the Liverpool theatre world. There she met Austin Davies, an aspiring artist who was painting scenery. They married in 1954 and he became the