Oft-Shortlisted Bainbridge Given Posthumous Booker

The Man Booker Prize has created another one-off award. Intended to celebrate the life's work of the late Beryl Bainbridge, who had been a finalist for the prestigious British award five times but never won, the Best of Beryl prize will call out the most Booker-worthy of her shortlisted titles, as determined by public vote.

Voters can choose between Bainbridge's novels Master Georgie (1998), Every Man for Himself (1996), An Awfully Big Adventure (1990), the Guardian Fiction Award–winning The Bottle Factory Outing (1974), and  The Dressmaker (1973). (Incidentally, her final novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, forthcoming in June from Little, Brown, is ineligible for a posthumous Booker nomination—only living writers are considered for the honor.) The Best of Beryl title will be announced in April.

"Beryl did want to win the Booker very much despite her protests to the contrary," says Bainbridge's daughter, Jojo Davies. "We are glad she is finally able to become the bride, no longer the bridesmaid."

Meanwhile, the Guardian's Michael Holroyd takes a more skeptical stance on what exactly the award is celebrating.

In the video below, BBC News takes a look back at the life of Bainbridge at the time of her death last July.


Beryl Bainbridge's "Birthday Boys"

I'm not particularly a reader of Ms. Bainbridge, or of long-form fiction. I read her book "Birthday Boys" about Capt. Scott's ill-fated attempt to reach the south pole in 1911, because I'm interested in the subject.

Any book which treats with historical matter in a fictionalized form, at least ought to show the author is familiar with the true story in more than its most dramatic and tragic points. Unfortunately, Ms. Bainbridge's book proves that this was not the case.

The story is indeed a fascinating look into the driving forces of human ambition and hubris, and there are any number of ways to see it--not all of them favorable. I have my own view, which can be seen in the Tom Crean pages at davidhirzel.net.

In any event, one who proposes a fictional story about real events, ought to have a firmer knowledge of the real people involved. It is certainly easily obtained.

David Hirzel