Beryl Bainbridge's latest novel is a masterly evocation of the last years of Dr Johnson, arguably Britain's greatest Man of Letters. The time is the 1770s and 1780s and Johnson, having completed his life's major work (he compiled the first ever Dictionary of the English Language) is running an increasingly chaotic life. Torn between his strict ...
Beryl Bainbridge's latest novel is a masterly evocation of the last years of Dr Johnson, arguably Britain's greatest Man of Letters. The time is the 1770s and 1780s and Johnson, having completed his life's major work (he compiled the first ever Dictionary of the English Language) is running an increasingly chaotic life. Torn between his strict morality and his undeclared passion for Mrs Thrale, the wife of an old friend, ACCORDING TO QUEENEY reveals one of Britain's most wonderful characters in all his wit and glory. Above all, though, this is a story of love and friendship and brilliantly narrated by Queeney, Mrs Thrale's daughter, looking back over her life. A few of Johnson quotes: *Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures *No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money *When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life
Publishers Weekly, 2001-07-23 As she has proved time and again, most recently in Every Man for Himself and Master Georgie, few novelists now alive can match Bainbridge for the uncanny precision with which she enters into the ethos of a previous era. This time it is the period of Dr. Samuel Johnson, and the strange relationship he built in his later years with wealthy Southwark brewer Henry Thrale and his vivacious but moody wife, Hester. Some of it is seen through the eyes of Mrs. Thrale's eldest daughter, the Queeney of the title, but such is Bainbridge's virtuosity with points of view that she can move into Dr. Johnson's or Mrs. Thrale's heads at will. This brief novel for each scene is pared down to its essentials is more a sketch of a way of life and feeling than a full-blown narrative. The great lexicographer is brought to life more vividly than by any chronicler since James Boswell. We see him enjoying the Thrales' hospitality, indulging in mostly imaginary dalliances with his hostess and sparring with the likes of Garrick and Goldsmith. He accompanies the Thrales and their hangers-on on a European journey that is freighted with woe, and also proudly escorts them on a pilgrimage to his hometown of Lichfield. The tension between the bizarre manners of the day and the unexpressed passions burning within is beautifully caught, and Queeney's skeptical commentary lends just the right distance. If in the end the impression is more of a study in the difficulties of friendship and the ravages of time, the extraordinary craft more than compensates for a lack of narrative drive. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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