Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
An Awfully Big Adventure (Bainbridge, Beryl) Paperback – May 9, 1995
|New from||Used from|
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I've read half a dozen of Bainbridge's novels now. I've enjoyed them all to one degree or another, but this is the one I liked best. She touches greatness with this book; maybe because she drew on her own experiences. Wickedly...funny...I guess...although "funny" isn't really the right word. I don't think the English language has a word to describe the essential nature of Bainbridge's writing. She nudges you in the ribs throughout, only she uses a large kitchen knife to do the nudging, and she snaps it off at the hilt on the last page. Her books leave me torn between relief that the tension is finally broken and remorse that...um...the tension is finally broken.
Whatever this style of fiction is, if you like deeply ironic stories that keep giving you "Aha! So that's what she meant!" moments for days or weeks after you finish them, then you'll probably like this book.
On the other hand, this book is extremely confusing on a first read, for a couple of reasons. To describe one reason would be to reveal a spoiler, so I'll stay mum. Another reason is that characters are thrown into the story as if you already know who they are. It's a bit like tuning into a movie that's already half over. If you don't like that, you'll probably hate this book. A page-turner, in the sense of the typical easily-digested bestseller, it's not. This is genuine literature.
Incidentally, if you haven't read the book, and you think you know what the title means, let me assure you that you couldn't possibly be more wrong.
The book is hard to categorize. It isn't a coming-of-age, a psychological thriller, a dazzling Peter Pan parable; it is all these things and more.
Stella raised in blue-collar, post WWII Liverpool is a troubled and troubling 15-year old who determinedly washed out of school and has been fixed up as a "student" (read gofer) at a provincial repertory company. She has no particular acting ambitions, but is certain she would be very good at it. We get a many-sided view of Stella; as she sees herself and as she is perceived by the people around her. Every scene and every word of dialogue interlocks like a jeweled timepiece. The reader is almost unaware of the ever-increasing momentum until it crashes upon you in a chilling finale. You think Ms. Bainbridge is through with you, but not quite. Just when you think you are utterly and completely emotionally drained, Ms. Bainbridge delivers a final twist, and now you know you are. I was left stunned.
An excellent example of fine prose. Highly recommended.
Jump forwards 30 years to the setting of Bainbridge's book about the trials, tribulations, triumphs (very few) and tragedies (quite a lot) of a Liverpool repertory company. Originally published in 1989, Bainbridge draws upon some of her own experiences as an actor around that time.
Gone is Priestley's enjoyable, rather sentimental approach. Instead, we have a blackly, bleakly funny and unholy mixture of sex, love, death and religion, all wrapped up in an atmosphere of lower middle-class prurience and and things which are not quite nice and musn't be mentioned (Orton's territory)
This is the story of Stella, an awkward, difficult, naive and impressionable mid-teens. She is also adept at wearing a don't tangle with me mask, making her appear much more hard-boiled and insensitive than she really is. Strings are pulled to get her a job as an ASM in the rep company, as her imaginative, rather histrionic abilities at play-acting her way through her life, suggest to those around her that she may have a theatrical gift.
Bainbridge structures her book beautifully, setting something up at the start, which is only finally revealed at the end, when she collapses, one by one, her house of cards, with a selection of hinted at revelations which are simultaneously as bleak, horribly funny, and shocking as Orton. There is as much going on here as there are in some of the major themes of Greek tragedy, except Bainbridge does the great trick of wrapping the tragedy with absurd, comedic touches.
I'm working through re-reading Bainbridge, following my reading of the wonderful Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend which connects her life, her writing and her art, and this was a wonderful re-read.