Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

Master Georgie – Beryl Bainbridge #20BooksofSummer

Historical Fiction
3*s

One of the things I love most about Beryl Bainbridge’s writing is that each is unique, not just in terms of premise but there are different places and time periods to explore and of course a fresh set of characters to admire or revile, or perhaps feel indifference towards.

Master Georgie is set around the time Crimea War and has three voices to tell its tale as well as a photograph to illustrate each of the six sections it is divided into. Two of these are set in Liverpool, 1846 and 1850 whereas the remainder is set in 1854 during the war.

First up we meet the formerly impoverished orphan Myrtle who poses next to the corpse of George Hardy’s father. She was taken into the family as a foundling but she is infatuated with George, and so she runs his errands, clears up his messes and generally dotes on him with a fondness that verges on obsession.

We then meet Pompey Jones in 1850 by which time George Hardy is a surgeon and a keen photographer. Pompey Jones is his assistant but their relationship is far from straightforward with Pompey harbouring resentment towards Georgie. It is therefore through Pompey’s narrative that we see a far less wholesome side to Georgie than that we saw through Myrtle’s. Myrtle has been sent away to school to become a lady but her obsessive love for Georgie has not waned despite the fact the latter now has a wife.

Finally we meet Dr Potter, Georgie’s brother-in-law and the Crimea war is the backdrop to the remainder of the story. I know little about this war but I certainly got the feeling it was an authentic portrayal allowing us to see yet more facets of Georgie’s character.

This is a clever book and one that I would say would benefit from a re-read if only time would allow. Not because it is exceptionally complicated but in my desire to read the entire story, I am sure I missed some of the finer points made along the way. There are many themes most notably the photography which adds a compelling dimension to the story-telling. On the larger scale this is a story about a family and a fairly sympathetic portrayal of one man at its heart. There are indiscretions, some shocking events but overall despite a smidge of satire, it is a pleasant read, not designed to shock, but to tell a realistic story. I have to admit this reader couldn’t help but recognise threads of other works of literature set in similar times and circumstances, not that this isn’t an original tale but more that the understanding of the story Beryl Bainbridge seeks to portray is wider than this fairly slim novel can encompass.

As I alluded to earlier in this review – the journey and the devices used to illustrate it, were exceptionally well-written and enjoyable to read but if I am honest, I didn’t really feel that I connected with any of the emotions that I suspect I was intended to. Maybe on a second read, this element would come to the fore…

Master Georgie was my seventh read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and an interesting exploration of a different time and age.

First Published UK: 1998
Publisher: Abacus
No of Pages:224
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

16 thoughts on “Master Georgie – Beryl Bainbridge #20BooksofSummer

  1. I loved An Awfully Big Adventure when I read it a couple of years ago. This one, with its historical setting, sounds rather different – and yet the indiscretions and shocking events you mention sound very Bainbridge. An interesting writer, for sure.

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  2. I read Master Georgie about 10 years ago – just before I began my blog so I haven’t recorded what I thought about it apart from giving it 4*, so I must have enjoyed it. It was the first of her books I’ve read and since then I’ve read several and agree that each one is unique! She was such a talented writer.

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    1. I think this is about the fifth book I’ve read by this author and I enjoyed them all (except Winter Garden which I didn’t really ‘get’) As I tried to get across, I think some of the elements of this book would be more obvious to me if I had time for a second read. She was indeed incredibly talented especially in her portrayal of the hidden sides of lives.

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  3. There is definitely something about Bainbridge’s writing, isn’t there, Cleo? And she does create a different sort of story each time. What I also like is her skill at building suspense, if I can put it this way, without the reader even being aware that it’s being built until it hits. Glad you enjoyed this one.

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  4. I’m pretty sure I’ve read Every Man for Himself about the Titanic and possibly According to Queenie, although Goodreads isn’t confirming it so it must be some years ago. My impression of Bainbridge’s writing is that it is economical, no wasted words.

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    1. Beryl Bainbridge is a very clever writer and part of what I was trying to get across is that sometimes that means lesser souls like me, need to have a couple of goes at a book to keep up. There are no wasted words and yet lots of episodes and so perhaps I needed a few more to make some of the links clearer?

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  5. I’ve only read one book by Bainbridge (Sweet William), which I did not enjoy, primarily because the MC was so unlikable…and he seemed to enjoy treating women badly, under the guise of charm. LOL.

    Thanks for sharing…and I think I’ll pass on this one, too.

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  6. I’ve only read Harriet Said, which I enjoyed but somehow not enough to push her onto my must-read list. However I hope to get around to more one day, and maybe won’t put this one at the top of the list – I do prefer characters I can connect to, or at least care about…

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    1. Sadly I have a feeling it was as much the reader as the writer in this instance which is why I don’t routinely read ‘clever’ books! It certainly wasn’t an unpleasant experience and I learned lots, I just came away feeling that I’d also missed something vital

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  7. I read this so long ago I’d forgotten a lot of it, but I think I enjoyed it more than you did Cleo – I do enjoy Bainbridge’s economical style, though as you say, it can work against her. You’ve encouraged me towards a re-read!

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    1. I’m definitely hanging onto my copy to read again because I think in this instance I needed a few more words to help me make all the links I was supposed to – I certainly enjoyed the journey but wasn’t quite sure how I’d got to the destination.

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