Sunday Salon: Discovering a new author

Every year I hope to find an author whose work is completely new to me.  It doesn’t matter if they’ve been around for a few hundred years or still relatively new in their writing career; it’s the pleasure of the discovery I enjoy.

So far this year, through my challenge to read all the Booker prize winners, I’ve had multiple first-time experiences. Admittedly some have been more pleasurable than others. I do not for example have any desire to read another book by David Storey or Penelope Fitzgerald but I do want to explore further J G Farrell and V S Naipaul.

Beryl Bainbridge at her desk

This week saw another first for me – Beryl Bainbridge. I’ve been aware of her for many years largely I think because of her image as a hard talking bon viveur  from the heyday of London’s Fleet Street and her predisposition to fall off bar stools during parties. But I knew nothing of her literary work and ashamedly couldn’t name a single book she had produced. But then I discovered this was an author whose work had been shortlisted five times for the Man Booker prize (though she never won). Clearly she was worth investigating, which is why I’ve spent this week reading The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress.  It was her last novel before she died from cancer in 2010 and although she kept writing until the end, she never actually managed to complete the book. It does feel unfinished but I enjoyed her style sufficiently to want to read more next year . (Read the review here) There are plenty of titles to choose from – including the last one, she wrote 18 novels in total. But I’m going to start with one for which she was a Booker shortlist candidate:

  • The Dressmaker (1973)
  • The Bottle Factory Outing (1974)
  • An Awfully Big Adventure (1989)
  • Every Man for Himself (1996)
  • Master Georgie (1998)

Anyone read one of these and can give me an opinion on which to choose first?

Interested in learning more about Beryl Bainbridge? Read the 2002 profile at The Guardian.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on November 18, 2012, in Book Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I’d also recommend The Bottle Factory Outing. I also loved An Awfully Big Adventure, but read it too long ago – need to revisit. I may run a Beryl II week next spring (if I get through my current Dorothy Dunnett phase).

  2. Thanks for the Guardian link. I look forward to checking that out. I have just been re-acquainted with Beryl Bainridge and was thrilled with “The Bottle Factory Outing”. It’s a dark comedy that will surprise you and make you laugh and cry. I wrote a review last week of it and would highly recommend it. I’ve put all her other books on my teetering TBR pile.

    • Thanks for dropping by the site Lee-Anne. I just read your review – it does sound good though I usually struggle with comedy in novels. I have my eye on An Awfully Big Adventure or Master George …. Karen Heenan-Davies


  3. Hi there, I discovered Bainbridge earlier this year too. Her style wasn’t an instant click for me but I did find myself startled and curious by such a deliberate way of ‘staging’ the stories I read. I wouldn’t have discovered her at all this year though without another blogger, Annabel, running a Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week this summer. There’s a round up of all the books reviewed by the participants at if you’re interested in seeing what we all made of the titles we sampled… The Bottle Factory Outing seemed to be the group’s favourite overall. 🙂

    • Thanks Alex, I wish I’d known about this readalong and could have joined in. But the reviews are very helpful so thanks for pointing it my way Karen Heenan-Davies


  4. I sometimes feel like there are so many books so little time and that even I could spell all my time reading I’d come up short. Like, of the ones you’ve mentioned I’ve only ever read Naipaul. Bainbridge sounds like another one for my ever growing wish list. Btw, if you’re interested in reading more Caribbean writers I hope you’ll check the bibliographies on my site. I hope you’ll check out one of my books as well. Thank for stopping by my blog, always happy to connect with another book lover.

    • I know exactly how you feel – even if I retired from work I doubt I would be able to read all I want to. I stopped by your blog and left a comment – looks very interesting.

  5. Julian Barnes was treading the footsteps of Beryl Bainbridge until he won the Booker last year. I haven’t read her yet, so I can’t make a recommendation. And with that, I will wait for your take on any of these five books.

  6. Thanks for sharing a little about this author. I, too, love to discover new authors. Now I’m off to see what I can find of hers.

    • Let me know what you discover. Thanks for visiting my site and leaving a comment. It makes blogging so much more interesting when I know someone is bothering to read it!

  7. Oh, I’m adding her to my list of authors to investigate. Love the look of her work space!

    Thanks for sharing…and here’s MY SUNDAY SALON POST

    • she was a real character – most pictures I’ve seen of her she has a cigarette or glass of something in her hand.
      hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration Laurel

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