AN Wilson and Paul Bailey share memories of their friend Beryl Bainbridge and discuss her life and her books. They are joined on stage by Beryl’s daughter, the actress Rudi Davies, who will read extracts from Beryl’s last book, The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress.
Paul Bailey writes: “Her capacious sense of the ridiculous encompassed her own failings and misdemeanours, as when she mistook the Queen for Vera Lynn (both ladies were dressed in blue) at a Royal Academy reception. “Isn’t this a boring party?” she asked the startled monarch, before being rapidly ushered out of the royal presence.
Beryl was a serious and dedicated novelist and her own severest critic. Like Muriel Spark and Jean Rhys, she had no time for, or patience with, extraneous words and phrases. Her lean sentences speed the story along and offer piercing insights into character. Her gift was, and is, to be instantly recognisable: a Beryl Bainbridge novel, whether told in the first or third person, has her stamp on it from the first paragraph to the last. Beryl stayed loyal to her obsessions, investing them with humour and a disinterested understanding of human foibles right to the end of her long and honourable career.”
Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge was born in Liverpool and raised in nearby Formby. She won the Whitbread Awards prize for best novel in 1977 and 1996; she was nominated five times for the Booker Prize. She was described in 2007 as “a national treasure”. In 2008, the Times named Bainbridge among their list of The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. She died on 2nd July, 2010.
Her novels include
The Dressmaker (1973)
The Bottle Factory Outing (1974)
An Awfully Big Adventure (1989)
Every Man for Himself (1996)
Master Georgie (1998)
The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress (2011)