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Master Georgie Paperback – October 15, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Beryl Bainbridge seems drawn to disaster. First she tackled the unfortunate Scott expedition to the South Pole in The Birthday Boys; later (but emphatically pre-DiCaprio) came the sinking of the Titanic, in Every Man for Himself. Now, in her 3rd historical novel (and her 16th overall), she takes on the Crimean War, and the result is a slim, gripping volume with all of the doomed intensity of the Light Brigade's charge--but, thankfully, without the Tennysonian bombast. "Some pictures," a character confides, "would only cause alarm to ordinary folk." There's a warning concealed here, and one that easily disturbed readers would do well to heed: Master Georgie is intense, disturbing, revelatory--and not always pretty to look at.

Bainbridge's narrative circles round the enigmatic figure of George Hardy, a surgeon, amateur photographer, alcoholic, and repressed homosexual who counters the dissipation of his prosperous Liverpool life by heading for the Crimean Peninsula in 1854. His journey and subsequent tour of duty are told in three very different voices: Myrtle, an orphan whose lifelong loyalty to her "Master Georgie" becomes an overriding obsession; Pompey Jones, street urchin, fire-eater, photographer, and George's sometime lover; and Dr. Potter, George's scholarly brother-in-law, whose retreat from the war's carnage and into books takes on a tinge of madness.

United by a sudden death in a Liverpool brothel in 1846, these characters plumb the curious workings of love, war, class, and fate. In between, Bainbridge frames an unforgettable series of tableaux morts: a dying soldier, one lens of his glasses "fractured into a spider's web"; a decapitated leg, toes "poking through the shreds of a cavalry boot"; two dead men "on their knees, facing one another, propped up by the pat-a-cake thrust of their hands." Glimpsed as if sidewise and then passed over in language that is as understated as it is lovely, these are images that sear into the brain. Master Georgie is full of such moments, horrors painted with an exquisite brush. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bainbridge (Every Man for Himself, LJ 9/15/96) begins her story in 1846 in Liverpool, England. Myrtle is an orphan, taken in and fussed over by the Hardy family until it gets a dog. She stays on as a servant of sorts and becomes smitten with Georgie, the son of the house. Although she follows him everywhere, he rarely acknowledges her, which does not cool her determined adoration. Georgie becomes a doctor, and Myrtle becomes the mother of his children when his own wife is unable to produce an heir. When Georgie volunteers for medical service in the Crimean War, Myrtle goes with him. Even learning that Georgie prefers men does not dampen her unrequited love. Though ascertaining who is speaking can be difficult, as a different character narrates each chapter, this story is well researched and well written. It includes particularly vivid descriptions of the war and the Victorian era, including the sexual undertones and overtones of the day. Recommended.?Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island, Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Watch Hill
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf (October 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078670697X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786706976
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,400,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mr. K. Mahoney on March 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
At first, I was going to tick Beryl Bainbridge off for writing too well, too literary. I thought it nonsense that an illiterate girl in nineteenth century Liverpool could never write such exquisite prose as evidenced in this novel, and that this was a case of the authorial voice being too strong. As it happened, I couldn't have been more wrong. This novel is narrated by the close acquaintances of 'Master Georgie' (although some are closer than others), starting with the illiterate Myrtle. Immediately we are drawn into the action, as this sequence of a photograph being taken will resound throughout the novel. 'Master Georgie' is incredibly subtle, and it is only by looking back over it that you begin to appreciate that this is the most suitable of beginnings. Here is where Myrtle begins on her road to becoming a lady. And what an unsavory road it is, as Myrtle's help is initially required to cover up the manner in which George Hardy's father has died, and leads to the bloody battlefields of the Crimea. Also assisting with the cover-up is the duck-boy and street urchin, Pompey Jones and the pompous Dr. Potter, whose narrations are by far the best. George Hardy himself is an ambiguous figure, seen only through the eyes of others. It may be a fault that we never really get to know him. This is a novel of cameras, carnality, and carnage. The dreadful shadow of history is cast upon it, with the famous charge of the Light Brigade lightly alluded to. One almost expects to run into a lady with a lamp at every corner, but fortunately, Bainbridge avoids this excess. She takes events frozen in time, such as the front cover's photograph, and brings them into life and death, and maybe even beyond. The camera never lies... Or does it?Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on July 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ms. Beryl Bainbridge writes Historical Fiction with as much skill as any writer, and much better than others who attempt the genre. Her stories rarely have definitive separations between what actually happened, and what might have happened to the characters she creates. The Crimean War is the setting this time, and while historically noteworthy is not as familiar as some of her other subjects, like The Titanic, or the doomed Scott Expedition to the South Pole. What is consistent is her ability to jump about through time periods without ever losing credibility. Each of her books reads as if a unique pen is behind each one. The hand of course is the same, however the moods created are remarkably singular.
The character that is the book's title is a complex human study, or if you prefer, a very intricate person but occupied with a mind and personality as muddled, as it is diverse. A grotesque death scene is the entrance for one of the narrator's of the book, an individual that would have lived as a street urchin but for chance, and an ambiguous bit of goodwill. A second street personality with many more wiles and flexible conduct also becomes a member of Master Georgie's entourage. This second narrator has a unique view of events, as he is close when Master Georgie requires, for the latter's sexuality is repressed at best. These are just two people who eventually head to the middle of The Crimean War, and the question that keeps shadowing the reader is why?
Escape from the latter half of 19th century London is an easy answer for George, but what of the others? Taking a trip toward an impending war as George's groupies is one matter, staying in the midst of a war is much more puzzling. This is one of the most difficult of Ms. Bainbridge's books that I have read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Karbovsky on February 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A reading of this book resembles a leafing through an album of old photographs dedicated to some unknown man named George Hardy. Each of the three narrators, who were once connected and loved him (though in different manner and degree), shows two pictures and tells their prehistories. The image of Master Georgie as a respectable, decent man turns into a central figure of such a weird sexual and family conundrum that it will take some time to perceive; an affectionate son turns into a frigid father and lover; a drunkard into a brave surgeon of the English army during the Crimean War; etc. The book ends in horrible bloody scenes of the senseless war carnage. Ms Beryl Bainbridge does not give an opportunity for George Hardy to speak, so we close the book but still do not understand who and what was George and why these three persons were so devoted to him. Just as in a real life: people come and go, we think we know them, but we usually know only their external appearance, and their essence remains a mystery...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Beryl Bainbridge has to be one of the greatest of all English authors. All of her books are superb and Master Georgie, her third book of historical fiction, is different, but no less superb, than the two preceeding. I think Master Georgie has not been praised quite highly enough because its subject matter may be less familiar to Americans than Bainbridge's two previous historicals. As a European, however, Master Georgie is definitely my favorite. It is quieter and more subtle, but I think it has much more emotional depth.
Bainbridge is always a little cryptic with her subject matter and Master Georgie is no exception. Don't let this put you off the book, though--the undercurrents of energy and intrigue make this short book riveting and well worth anyone's time.
The protagonist, Master Georgie, is actually George Hardy, a Victorian English dissolute and surgeon who, one day, decides to pack up his family and head for Turkey. Although his intentions are to provide medical care to the wounded during the Crimean war, we all know things rarely go as planned. Suffice it to say that Murphy's Law holds just as true for Master Georgie as it does for us.
The battlefield scenes are some of the best I have ever read, not surprising with Bainbridge. Although the scenes are brutal and sometimes even gruesome, this marvelous author has managed to infuse them with a sardonic wit that rivals anything I have ever read. Bainbridge is true to her subject matter in these scenes. Bainbridge chooses to forgo romanticism in favor of the reality of confusion and futility that surely must have existed on the battlefields of the Crimea. Lest you think she's making fun of her subjects, let me tell you she most assuredly is not.
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