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According to Queeney Hardcover – July 10, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As she has proved time and again, most recently in Every Man for Himself and Master Georgie, few novelists now alive can match Bainbridge for the uncanny precision with which she enters into the ethos of a previous era. This time it is the period of Dr. Samuel Johnson, and the strange relationship he built in his later years with wealthy Southwark brewer Henry Thrale and his vivacious but moody wife, Hester. Some of it is seen through the eyes of Mrs. Thrale's eldest daughter, the Queeney of the title, but such is Bainbridge's virtuosity with points of view that she can move into Dr. Johnson's or Mrs. Thrale's heads at will. This brief novel for each scene is pared down to its essentials is more a sketch of a way of life and feeling than a full-blown narrative. The great lexicographer is brought to life more vividly than by any chronicler since James Boswell. We see him enjoying the Thrales' hospitality, indulging in mostly imaginary dalliances with his hostess and sparring with the likes of Garrick and Goldsmith. He accompanies the Thrales and their hangers-on on a European journey that is freighted with woe, and also proudly escorts them on a pilgrimage to his hometown of Lichfield. The tension between the bizarre manners of the day and the unexpressed passions burning within is beautifully caught, and Queeney's skeptical commentary lends just the right distance. If in the end the impression is more of a study in the difficulties of friendship and the ravages of time, the extraordinary craft more than compensates for a lack of narrative drive.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In recent years, Bainbridge's novels have shifted from pure fiction to the ironic treatment of historical figures or events: The Birthday Boys (1991) considered Scott's Antarctic expedition; Every Man for Himself (1996), the sinking of the Titanic; and Master Georgie (1998), the Crimean War. Beginning and ending in 1784 with the death (and autopsy report) of Dr. Samuel Johnson, her latest work ranges over his last 20 years, when Hester Thrale, the wife of a wealthy brewer, was pivotal in his life a relationship that continues to interest Johnson scholars. The viewpoint is not exclusively "according to Queeney," Mrs. Thrale's precocious oldest daughter, but her caustic assessment matters. Latin tutor and family friend Johnson was gentle and kind to Queeney, but here the eminent man of letters is portrayed as slovenly, eccentric, unstable, and ill. Bainbridge's novel is interesting as an experiment in writing about a figure from the past, but the fiction is often submerged beneath the history. For comprehensive collections of British literature. Ruth H. Miller, Univ. of Southern Indiana Lib., Evansville
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Bainbridge, Beryl
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Carroll & Graf ed edition (July 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786707739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786707737
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on October 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is novel number 16 for Ms. Beryl Bainbridge. In addition to these she has written an additional 4 works. Of the first 15 novels, 5 have been nominated for the prestigious Booker Award, however it has never been granted to her work. If there is another writer who has had one third of their work nominated but not rewarded, I have not come across one. Many other awards have found their way to this tremendous storyteller; I hope the Booker Folks catch up.
"According To Queeney", demonstrates once again the ease with which Ms. Beryl Bainbridge can reach, both back into history and to some of the great players of their times, and not only grasp, but create wonderful new tales. The century of choice this time is the 18th, and she chooses the formidable Samuel Johnson as her focus. This person alone would be plenty for most writers, however she has added actor David Garrick, poet Oliver Goldsmith, novelist Fanny Burney, and artist Joshua Reynolds. Each of these people could fill their own book, and more than one has. The brilliance of this work is that the author manages to bring them all together, give them all they're due, and does so in a fairly brief 216 pages. She does not merely name drop or make a passing reference. She manages to make all of the various players memorable, however brief their words allotted may appear to be. The truth is they read with much greater length.
A young counterpoint to Johnson is the Queeney of the title. An extremely precocious child, she is a favorite of Johnson's as well as a talented young mind he seeks to cultivate. This same Queeney becomes a correspondent for a researcher investigating her memories of her young years, as they relate to her and her mother, the latter of the two who Johnson becomes emotionally attached to.
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Format: Hardcover
Beryl Bainbridge's new historical novel takes a fresh, and rather disturbing, look at Samuel Johnson, LL.D., the eminent 18th century lexicographer and man of letters. Dr. Johnson (as he is usually referred to) is, of course, well-known as the subject of English literature's first great biography, James Boswell's "The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D." (1791). But Boswell, who worshipped Johnson, failed to include some of the less appealing and less attractive aspects of Johnson's life and personality. It is these that Bainbridge writes about in "According to Queeney."
Queeney was the real-life daughter of Hester Lynch Thrale, one of Johnson's closest friends and confidantes. In fact, Johnson lived, off and on, at Mrs. Thrale's estate, Streatham Park. Through the voice of a third-person narrator, along with a series of letters written by Queeney to her girlhood friends, we discover that Dr. Johnson was deeply depressed (or melancholic, as they called it back then), obsessed with death, sexually conflicted, and a masochist--in short, a bundle of neurotic tics and rifts. Bainbridge's book is brilliant not only in its expose of the dark side of Dr. Johnson, but also in its depiction of the literary and social world of 18th century London, especially the upper classes. While non-specialists in this period of English literature may be challenged to keep up with who's who and what's what, in the end the challenge is well worth taking up.
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Format: Hardcover
In reviewing "According to Queeney"[review excerpted above],Publisher's Weekly wrote: "...few novelists now alive can match Bainbridge for the uncanny precision with which she enters into the ethos of a previous era."
Uncanny? Yes. Very weird. Precise? I absolutely don't think so-unless you'd believe that 18th century upper-class people lived in a constant state of misery due to(among other things)clinical depression, sexual repression, religious fanaticism and/or hypocrisy, disease, and the lack of indoor plumbing. My main problem with this book is its unremitting unpleasantness, both of tone and character, and its rather superficial assumption that there's some kind of need to dispel an imagined rosy picture of "ye olden days" by swinging wildly in the other direction: a modernist, disaffected, determinedly downbeat view of humanity.
There isn't a single likeable person in the book, nor does anyone seem to escape either madness, disease, bitterness, selfishness, hate, gluttony, stupidity, addiction-or a combination of the above. It's one thing to make one's central characters complex, another to divest them of anything positive, save, supposedly, intelligence. An author runs a great risk-and takes on a huge responsibility-when she chooses to write a fictional "novel" using real people, places, and events. Perhaps it's just me, but I believe that she owes these onetime living, breathing people something better-at least, something a little more considered than simply using them as objects on which to hang some imagined psychodramas. Yes, Johnson was a strange man...that's hardly news to anyone who's read anything about his personal life and habits. As for "Queeney's" mother, longtime Johnson friend Mrs.
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Format: Hardcover
Beryl Bainbridge seems to be an author people either love or hate; there just doesn't seem to be much inbetween. Personally, I love her books and I think she certainly must be one of today greatest living authors.
"According to Queeney" is, in my opinion, one of Bainbridge's very best. In this book she tells us much about the life and times of Samuel Johnson, the 18th century poet, editor of Shakespeare, journalist, critic, lexicographer, novelist, biographer and playwright.
Most people owe what they do know about Samuel Johnson to James Boswell whose biography of Johnson is considered by many to be the greatest biography ever written and surely the greatest ever written in the English language. Boswell, however, committed a grave error when he wrote his biography of Johnson; he fell in love with his subject matter. Boswell revered Johnson so much that he simply couldn't bring himself to include the darker side of Johnson's life, and it did have its darker side. It is this side...the darker one...that Bainbridge explores in "According to Queeney." As anyone who's ever engaged in gossip knows, our darker moments are far more interesting that are our lighter ones. No wonder this book is so good.
Queeney really did exist and she really was acquainted with Johnson. Her real name was Hester Maria Thrale and she was the eldest daughter of Hester Lynch Thrale and Henry Thrale, a wealthy, 18th century brewer who just happened to be Johnson's closest friend and confidante. Queeney is even mentioned in Boswell's biography of Johnson; she died in 1858, at the age of ninety-four, so she was no doubt the last surviving person to actually know Johnson personally.
The lives of Johnson and the Thrale's were intertwined, to some extent, for a full twenty years.
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