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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dame Beryl Bainbridge
Born 21 November 1932 (1932-11-21) (age 77)
Liverpool, England
Occupation Novelist
Nationality British

Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge, DBE (21 November 1932, Liverpool[1][2]) is an English novelist.

A five-time nominee for the Booker Prize, Bainbridge has never won. She has nonetheless been described as "a national treasure".[3]



Bainbridge was born in Liverpool and raised in nearby Formby. Even as a small child she enjoyed writing, and by age 10 she frequently updated her diary.[4] She had elocution lessons and by 11 she was appearing on the radio alongside Billie Whitelaw and Judith Chalmers.[5] She was expelled from Merchant Taylors' Girls' School, Crosby at age 14 when she was caught with a vulgar note, written by someone else, in her pocket.[6] That summer she fell in love with a former German POW who was waiting to be repatriated. For the next six years, the couple corresponded and tried to get permission for the German man to return to Britain so they could be married. The relationship ended in 1953.[4]

The following year she married artist Austin Davies. The two divorced soon after, leaving Bainbridge a single mother of two children. She later had a third child by Alan Sharp, a daughter who is the actress Rudi Davies.[4] In 1958 she attempted suicide by putting her head in an oven.[3]

She spent her early years working as an actress and appeared in a 1961 episode of the soap opera Coronation Street playing an anti-nuclear protester.

To help fill her time, Bainbridge began to write, primarily based on incidents from her childhood. Her early novels were well-received by critics but failed to earn much money.[6] Her first novel, Harriet Said... was written at this time. It was to be her third published novel, having been rejected by several publishers, one of whom found the central characters "repulsive almost beyond belief".[7] It was published after A Weekend with Claude (1967) and Another Part of the Wood (1968).

In the late 1970s she wrote a screenplay based on her novel Sweet William. The movie version, starring Sam Waterston, was released in 1979.[8]

Her 1989 novel, An Awfully Big Adventure (1989) was adapted into a film in 1995 starring Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant.

In the 1990s Bainbridge turned to historical fiction. These novels continued to be popular with critics but were also commercially successful.[6] Among her historical fiction novels is Master Georgie set in the Crimean War, for which she won the 1998 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

Her most recent novel, According to Queeney is a fictionalized account of the last years of the life of Samuel Johnson as seen through the eyes of Queeney Thrale, eldest daughter of Henry Thrale and Hester Thrale, and received wide acclaim.

Since the 1990s, Bainbridge has also served as a theatre critic for the monthly magazine The Oldie. Her reviews rarely contain negative content, and are usually published after the play has closed.[6]

In 2003 she was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature together with Thom Gunn. In 2005, the British Library acquired many of Bainbridge's private letters and diaries.[4]

In June 2001 Bainbridge was awarded an honorary degree by the Open University as Doctor of the University.

Throughout the year 2007, Charlie Russell produced a documentary, "Beryl's Last Year", about the life his grandmother, Beryl Bainbridge. Beryl believed she was destined to die aged 71, like her father, mother and nine other relatives. The documentary detailed her upbringing and attempts write a final novel Dear Brutus, which she decided to leave unfinished. It was aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Four.

In 2009, she donated the short story Goodnight Children, Everywhere to Oxfam's 'Ox-Tales' project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Her story was published in the 'Air' collection.[9]




Short stories

  • Mum and Mr Armitage (1985)
  • Collected Stories (1994)


  • English Journey (1984)
  • Forever England: North and South (1987)
  • Something Happened Yesterday (1993)
  • Front Row: Evenings at the Theatre (2005)


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge DBE (born 1932-11-21) is an English novelist who has been shortlisted five times for the Booker Prize.


  • I am of the firm belief that everybody could write books and I never understand why they don't. After all, everyone speaks. Once the grammar has been learnt it is simply talking on paper and in time learning what not to say.
    • James Vinson & D. L. Kirkpatrick (eds.), Contemporary Novelists, 2nd edition, (London: St. James Press, 1976). [1]
  • Being constantly with the children was like wearing a pair of shoes that were expensive and too small. She couldn't bear to throw them out, but they gave her blisters.
    • Injury Time (London: Abacus, [1977] 2003) ch. 4, pp. 41-42.
  • Everything else you grow out of, but you never recover from childhood.

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