Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Master Georgie is voted the Man Booker Best of Beryl

Beryl Bainbridge’s 1998 novel, Master Georgie, is today (Tuesday 19 April) announced the winner of a special prize created to honour the late, much-loved author - the Man Booker Best of Beryl. 

Beryl Bainbridge was shortlisted five times for the Booker Prize - the most that any author has been shortlisted - but never actually won.  Over a period of five weeks the public have been asked to vote for their favourite of Dame Beryl’s shortlisted books: The Dressmaker (1973); The Bottle Factory Outing (1974); An Awfully Big Adventure(1990); Every Man for Himself (1996) and Master Georgie (1998) all of which are now published in paperback by Abacus.

 The voting, conducted via the Man Booker website, was very close, with Master Georgie winning by a few votes, just pipping Every Man For Himself to the post.

The winning book was announced by Ion Trewin, Literary Director of the Man Booker Prizes (and former judge of the prize), at a party in Soho to celebrate the author’s life.  The prize - a one-off, designer-bound copy of the book - was accepted by Beryl’s daughter Jojo Davies and grandson Charlie Russell on behalf of the family.  The evening included tributes from Sir Ronald Harwood; AN Wilson; her long-standing agent, Andrew Hewson and Publisher at Little, Brown, Richard Beswick.

Ion Trewin comments, “Beryl was a very gracious non-winner and no Man Booker dinner was complete without her.  She may have been known as the eternal Booker Bridesmaid, but we are delighted to be able finally to crown Master Georgie a Booker Bride.”

 Master Georgie was first published in 1998 by Duckworth, and was shortlisted in the year that Ian McEwan’s novel Amsterdam won the Booker Prize.  The other shortlisted books were Julian Barnes’ England England, Patrick McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto, Martin Booth’s The Industry of Souls and Magnus Mills’ The Restraint of Beasts.

Master Georgie is set during the Crimean War and follows the adventures of George Hardy, a surgeon and photographer who leaves the cold squalor of Victorian Liverpool for the heat and glitter of the Bosphorus, to offer his services in the war.  He is followed by Myrtle, his adoring adoptive sister, a lapsed geologist and a photographer’s assistant and sometime fire-eater.  The group is driven onwards through a rising tide of death and disease by a shared and mysterious guilt.  Bainbridge exposes her enigmatic hero as tenderly and unsparingly as she reveals the filth and misery of war, combining an eye for beauty with a visceral understanding of mortality.

 It has been described as ‘truly extraordinary, heartbreakingly good’ (Sunday Telegraph) and The Times wrote, at the time of publication, ‘It is hard to think of anyone now writing who understands the human heart as Beryl Bainbridge does … Master Georgie is brief, intense, and remains seared on the mind long after reading.’  It won the WH Smith Literary Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Beryl Bainbridge was both an author and actress.  She wrote seventeen novels, two travel books and five plays for stage and television.  Her novel Every Man for Himself was awarded the Whitbread Novel of the Year Prize, she won the Guardian Fiction Prize with The Bottle Factory Outing and the Whitbread Prize with Injury Time.  The Bottle Factory Outing, Sweet William and The Dressmaker have all been adapted for film, as was An Awfully Big Adventure, which starred Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.  Her final novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, will be published by Little, Brown in June.  Beryl Bainbridge died in July last year.

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