Sadly, veteran English novelist Dame Beryl Bainbridge died last week aged 75. Author of 18 critically acclaimed novels, Beryl was the perennial Booker Prize bridesmaid, short-listed five times without once winning. She had greater success with the Whitbread prize, winning twice with her novels Injury time and Every man for himself. She also won the James Tait Memorial Prize for Fiction with Master Georgie, her portrait of an enigmatic Victorian doctor set against the Crimean war.
An ardent smoker and drinker, Beryl’s novels are characterised by her lean prose and dark humour. This pithy and often controversial turn of phrase was also used to great effect in her journalism and her unexpected, eccentric remarks provided a rich comedic vein for her friend Alice Thomas Ellis who often featured Beryl in her Spectator column.
Formerly an actress (she appeared in Coronation Street as Ken Barlow’s militant “ban the bomb” girlfriend), she used her experiences in provincial theatre as a backdrop for An awfully big adventure, later filmed with Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.
Beryl was finishing off her nineteenth novel The girl in the polka dot dress when she died, it will be published next year.