An Awfully Big Adventure

Beryl Bainbridge, Author HarperCollins Publishers $19.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-016544-4
A Booker Prize nominee, Bainbridge's latest novel is a compelling read, again demonstrating her acuity of observation and darkly comic view of life. In Stella Bradshaw, a teenage aspiring actress from the slums of Liverpool, Bainbridge limns a tough but beguiling character. She also deftly conveys the atmosphere of 1950s England, still grimly bomb-cratered, coping with food rationing and the visible casualties of maimed veterans. Her portrait of a seedy repertory troupe, whose members histrionically indulge in love affairs and unrequited passions, is classic. Into this company, directed by elegant Meredith Potter, comes Stella, inveigled into their midst by her uncle/guardian, who feels that the stage is Stella's only alternative to working in Woolworth's. Added to her knowledge of her illigitimacy and lower-class origins (the Bradshaws bathe once a fortnight, and share ``the family towel''), Stella has the normal self-consciousness and naivete of adolescence overlaid by a strong will, guilelessness and lack of tact. Her innocent but dangerous impulses and her crush on Meredith, whose homosexuality eludes her, makes Stella a sort of Typhoid Mary of psychological injury; one after another, members of the troupe suffer from her impetuous behavior. Bainbridge's prose brims with pithy insights tinged with sardonic humor, and her plot moves swiftly to a chilling conclusion. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-0-88184-961-5
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-7531-5120-4
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Hardcover - 208 pages - 978-1-85695-264-4
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Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7540-0318-2
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