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When Master Georgie - George Hardy, surgeon and photographer - sets off from the cold squalor of Victorian Liverpool for the heat and glitter of the Bosphorus to offer his services in the Crimea, there straggles behind him a small caravan of devoted followers; Myrtle, his adoring adoptive sister; lapsed geologist Dr Potter; and photographer's assistant and sometime fire-eater Pompey Jones, all of them driven onwards through a rising tide of death and disease by a shared and mysterious guilt. Combining a breathtaking eye for beauty with a visceral understanding of mortality, Beryl Bainbridge exposes her enigmatic hero as tenderly and unsparingly as she reveals the filth and misery of war, and creates a novel of luminous depth and extraordinary intensity.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349111698
ISBN-10: 0349111693
Format: Paperback
(199mm x 127mm x 15mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 1-Apr-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » George Hardy, an affluent doctor living in Liverpool in the 1840s, attracts loyal friends from across the class divide. Myrtle, an orphaned slum-child, worships the ground he walks on. Pompey Jones, a cynical and mischievous street boy, makes the most of George's misplaced affection. George's brother-in-law, Dr Potter, a loquacious geologist, also holds him in high esteem, thinking little of following the doctor and his family to the Crimea weeks before the outbreak of war. This is a superb evocation of an age and a formative period in the history of the British Empire but, like all of Bainbridge's work, it is much more than that. It is one of those books you long to consume in one sitting. Shortlisted for the 1998 Booker prize. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Bainbridge's 16th novel - and the third consecutive one based on historical fact (following The Birthday Boys, 1994, and Every Man for Himself, 1996) - offers perhaps the most brilliant demonstration yet of her matchless gift for storytelling concision and subtle suggestiveness. George Hardy is a successful Liverpool surgeon and amateur photographer - and a closeted, depressed alcoholic and homosexual who will seek his manhood by volunteering his services to soldiers wounded during the Crimean War. We learn these facts, if little else about Hardy, in six chapters narrated by the three people who believe they know "Master Georgie" best: the orphan girl Myrtle (adopted by the Hardy family), who devotes her life to him, even unto surreptitiously bearing the children his barren wife claims as their own; his brother-in-law Dr. Potter, a geologist and classical scholar whose portentous mid-Victorian homilies can neither explain nor even reach the distracted George; and Pompey Jones, a resourceful street-urchin and performer (specializing as a "fire-eater") whose accidental entry into the doctor's life makes him the latter's all-purpose assistant, and occasional lover. From a deftly understated narrative keyed to six glancingly described photographs (each marking an important moment in her "hero's" life), Bainbridge creates a haunting picture of a world in which human relationships are ruled by accident and people's understanding of others is decisively distorted and limited by their own inner natures. The great events (such as the Charge of the Light Brigade) and figures (Florence Nightingale) of the Crimean ordeal linger faintly in the background as the ghastly momentum of the war's carnage (climaxing at Sebastopol) is filtered through the expertly differentiated consciousness of the three narrators. And, in a triumph of imaginative empathy, Bainbridge captures the mystery and pathos of her characters' essential aloneness in such distressing images as the sight of cherries rotting in a dead soldier's lap or our final view of Myrtle, hovering in grief "like a bird above a robbed nest." An exemplary work from one of Britain's freest writers. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Beryl Bainbridge

Beryl Bainbridge wrote seventeen novels, two travel books and five plays for stage and television, she was shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, and won literary awards including the Whitbread Prize and the Author of the Year Award at the British Book Awards. She died in July 2010.

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