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Every Man for Himself (Bainbridge, Beryl) Paperback – August 22, 1997

2.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After taking on the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole in her previous book, The Birthday Boys, the novelist tackles a much larger 1912 disaster: the sinking of the Titanic. The narrator, a 22-year-old named Morgan, brushes up against real-life victims such as John James Astor early in the voyage, while falling in love with the beautiful and unobtainable Wallis Ellery. The deadly maiden voyage of the world's largest ocean liner becomes a journey of self-discovery in this portentous, postmodern work, shortlisted for the 1996 Booker Prize. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Bainbridge, whose The Birthday Boys was an unforgettable rendition of Scott's fatal Antarctic expedition, has turned to another Edwardian tragedy for her new novel: the sinking of the Titanic. As Bainbridge admirers might expect, it is not the kind of version that would make a spectacular movie; rather, it is a meticulously observed account that almost offhandedly convinces the reader that this is exactly what it must have been like aboard the doomed liner. The story is told by a wealthy young American man-about-town, an adopted nephew of J. Pierpont Morgan, who in search of something to do has had a slight hand in the ship's design ("the specifications of bathtubs"). Once aboard, he drinks too much with his layabout friends; sees people like the Astors and Strauses; becomes infatuated with a girl who in turn falls for a mysterious and cynical stranger; and gets to know a young Jewish dress designer who is hoping to become a hit in New York. In a few deft strokes Bainbridge shows the gulf between the steerage passengers and the "nobs" while communicating the alternating servility and resentment of the crew. The book is nearly over before disaster strikes, but once again, the unnerving details seem just right: the careless self-confidence at the beginning, the gallantry quickly eroding to panic. Bainbridge's swift, economical novels tell us more about an era and the ways in which its people inhabit it than volumes of social history.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bainbridge, Beryl
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; 2 edition (August 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786704675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786704675
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,945,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ricky Hunter on October 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Beryl Bainbridge's story of the Titanic is different from any of the multitude of other accoungs, fictional or not, which are out there. And that is a very good thing.
One of the main joys of this novel is having history become personal. This is not a adventure story about the Titanic but rather a small novel of the personal lives of various people which gets interrupted by the disaster at sea. Those looking for big cinematic thrills are advised to look elsewhere. But those looking for a glimpse of a group of interesting characters just before a life changing event will enjoy this tale.
The other joy of this novel is the compact, effective writing. Dialogue and narrative are told with an elegant sparseness. A nice read.
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Format: Paperback
This is the second Historically Based Novel I have read by Ms. Beryl Bainbridge, the first was, "The Birthday Boys". Of the two I believe the one based upon the Scott voyage to the Pole was much stronger, however the Author's writing is consistently good. I think this work suffered a bit in my reading as the movie, "Titanic", kept intruding. There were bound to be similarities in this maritime mess, however the screen version insinuating itself into the written work was a distraction.
"Every Man For Himself", takes place in virtually the same time frame as, "The Birthday Boys". The latter work was excellent in telling a story that became a metaphor for the time and its philosophies, the former does this again in a confined setting, and for this reader it was less interesting. Blind faith to the point of negligence in Technology of the unsinkable ship, and a list of passengers that would rate the top tier of Fortune's wealthiest certainly make for an interesting cast. However unlike the Scott work which spread itself across a wide range of people, this was more narrowly confined to the wealthiest cast, and finding empathy for these incredibly rich and generally pompous caricatures is hard. Our guide through most of the book is a member of The Morgan Clan, and even though his relation is tenuous his wealth makes him as boring as the rest.
The Author did introduce an event that was new to me, and even if it is not historically accurate (I don't know) it did make the story much more intriguing. If that plot line had been the main thread instead of more traditional love interests, and the preoccupation with scoring off of others to their detriment I think I would have enjoyed the work more.
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By A Customer on April 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Beryl is perfect. You collect all the swells, all the gentlemen, all those perfect graduates of all the right schools that at the end of the Edwardian Era believe themselves to be the best of the best. You add to that roster all the blatant goldiggers, the social parentheticals and all those female trollers in whom their mothers had all the best hopes. You put them all on a ship bound into the winter North Atlantic; and in just one Neptunian inhalation you sink the boat.
Never in the history of biology has fate and genetics so conspired to remove from our presence such a conceited and disgusting group. Beryl wrote this book with a sigh of relief and a chuckle; you should chuckle too. We are all better for the story and the biology.
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Format: Hardcover
Beryl Bainbridge's account of the Titanic disaster is a poignant coming-of-age drama cunningly cast against a backdrop of the world's most publicised naval mishap. Period costume notwithstanding, its central character's lust, love, and identity yearning are as valid today as it was almost a century ago. For those who prefer an intelligent read to some mindless, overhyped celluloid product manufactured only by Hollywood, the book will not leave you dissatisfied.
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By A Customer on October 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
Having only read this recently in paperback, some time after its Booker nomination, I found it difficult to see what all of the fuss was about. It's nicely written but has sacrificed character development or plot for technical description and, 'look at my research' detail. It's hard, I thought, to care about any of the characters at all and our exorphic knowledge of the ship's imminent fate led me to feel apathetic about the characters' fate rather than sympathetic. It doesn't seem to be ABOUT anything and, as we already know what happens, it's not a potboiler either.Bainbridge's prose is neat and clear but, ultimately, this is a novel less than the sum of its parts.
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Format: Hardcover
The setting:a larger than life historical event.The challenge:make it interesting.Beryl Bainbridge gets top mark for this.Perhaps the offbeat subtlety of the characters were misunderstood by some of the readers but this is truely British writing at its best.When disaster strikes it often carries an sureal quality and this book captures the moment perfectly.If you like quirky this is it!
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Format: Kindle Edition
This short, almost restrained, novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Whitbread Prize when published in 1996. It tells the story of Morgan, a relative of J.P. Morgan, who feels, "destined to be a participant rather than a spectator of singular events". When a man dies in his arms shortly before he is to return to the States, he leaves his uncle's house almost secretly (a stolen picture of his mother tucked away) and gets the milk train to Southampton. For the young man is surely about to participate in a major world event by boarding Titanic on her maiden voyage.

Although we are soon aware that Morgan is not quite the same as his upper class friends, he fits seamlessly into first class. His family background is slightly troubled, unknown, but then other passengers have their secrets too. What is interesting about this novel is the way Bainbridge shows how all these people are almost trapped together - a large, unhappy family. They travel to the same places, went to the same schools, shared social lives and even mistresses. The novel cleverly tells the story of life aboard, with all the little intrigues, love affairs and gossip. The author uses many real life characters - Lady Duff Gordon, Thomas Andrews, Bruce Ismay and Astor populate the pages, but as we know what is coming that overshadows everything that happens. This really is a clever read, which recreates life on board and the pressure these young men were under when calamity happened to be brave and not get in a 'funk'; when to be a man was to feel shame at surviving.
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