A QUIET LIFE by Beryl Bainbridge


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Her last novel, Sweet William (1976), began the swing away from the elements of surreptitious surprise which introduced this writer from the beginning as an accomplished teller of horror stories. Predictable stories to a degree, since they were so well founded in commonplace experience. This is slighter than Sweet William and as quiet as its title, unless you listen to the underside of what's being said. Between the cursory interchange of the first chapter and the ironic coda of the last, Bainbridge fills in the WW II years of Alan and Madge, nearly grown children of a descending middle-class family. Father has fallen on hard times--he also has bad ""turns"" everyone overlooks. Mother, no longer mothering, spends her evenings with her ""fancy man,"" while Madge is out in the dunes with a German prisoner of war. Home gets short shrift--so does Father whose last spell is fatal and unattended. . . . This is the most unassuming of writers, the most careful in the choice of the right word and the right detail to complete a portrait of a family imperceptibly falling away. It's as plain as that black pudding Father perhaps should not have eaten, but how remarkably Beryl Bainbridge raises familiarity to the plateau of excellence.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1977
Publisher: Braziller