The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 10 October 2010

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

A friend bought me this book a while ago, simply because it is set in my home town and in the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre in 1950. I have never read anything by Beryl Bainbridge even though she was from Liverpool too, and I have to say that even though she was known for her outspoken opinions, her comments about Liverpool people have irked me somewhat. Bainbridge died earlier this year so I thought it was time to put my own prejudices away and give this book a go.
It is 1950 and Stella has been taken on as assistant stage manager just as the Liverpool rep company are about to stage Peter Pan for Christmas and she has fallen for the director, Meredith. Working with all of the other quirky characters who work at the theatre we learn about Stella, her background and vulnerability. The story comes to a head with the return of O'Hara, the legendary actor who is standing in for the lead.
I really enjoyed revisiting locations in Liverpool, some of which I remember but are long gone, like Reece's cafe, Blackler's store and the old Clayton Square. Of course our own lovely Playhouse is still there and going strong. I did however find it really hard to follow at times. It seemed to jump about unpredictably within chapters. It wasn't until towards the end that I started to connect with the the style of the writing and appreciate the subtle layering that was taking place. This was the only time that I began to see why Bainbridge has such a strong following. Sadly for me it was a little late to help me connect with the characters. At times it felt I was seeing them through a fog and only getting snatches of their existence.
I am glad that I did get to see some of the wring talent within the book because a lot of the start was quite sketchy. I did love the trip down memory lane though and I think the writing style will give readers a lot to comment on and discuss.
Book Rags do a study guide for An Awfully Big Adventure with topics for discussion.
To read more about Beryl Bainbridge click the link.


Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I've wanted to read this. Thank you for the honest review!

Leah said...

Hi Holly, thank you for dropping by. I hope that you enjoy it if you do read it.

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