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The Birthday Boys


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* A Bainbridge classic comes into Abacus paperback for the first time

About the Author

Beryl Bainbridge is the author of seventeen novels, two travel books and five plays, she has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, and has won many literary awards including the Whitbread Prize and the Author of the Year Award at the British Book Awards.


YA-A riveting fictionalized account of Robert Falcon Scott's doomed British expedition to the South Pole in 1910, related through the diary entries of five of its members. Bainbridge conveys a vivid sense of the era and of the pride, idealism, and bravado of the explorers as they prepare for their adventure. Once they reach Antarctica, their attention turns to the excitement and pleasure in the scenic and scientific discoveries that await them. But in the final analysis, it is their courage and fortitude that shine through in the face of failure (the Norwegian Amundsen beat them to the South Pole by a month) and the realization that they will not survive.-Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA

Bainbridge s account of the horribly familiar story is both fresh and sure-footed. The power of her imagination, her clarity of expression and mastery of language are more striking than anything else I have read this year - Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph A beautiful piece of story-telling. Far more accurately than any biography could do, it catches what must have been Scott s hold on his followers - Andro Linklater, Spectator Her darkest work, equally convincing in tis evocations of the icy, unendurable landscape without, and the chilling interior landscapes of damaged souls - Penny Perrick, Sunday Telegraph She writes of the hideous deprivations so boldly endured; the astounding beauties of the Antarctic landscapes; the personality clashes; the emotional reticences... It seems to me that Beryl Bainbridge has quite surpassed herself in a completely new imaginative direction - Mary Hope, Financial Times

Bainbridge, the idiosyncratic English author whose best-known books here are probably The Bottle Factory Outing and The Dressmaker , has never gained the American audience she deserves. The fact that this gripping, moving and hair-raisingly readable novel has taken three years to achieve publication here--and then only by a courageous and enterprising smaller publisher--suggests that Americans are still slightly wary of her. Readers should abandon such caution immediately, for this is by far her best book to date: a riveting account told in shifting first-person narratives by the key members of the doomed Antarctic expedition led by Captain Scott in 1912. It has been written about often before, and memorably filmed, but Bainbridge's cunningly fictionalized account leaves others standing. She takes on, in turn, the voices of burly, roistering Welsh Petty Officer Taff Evans; sweet-natured, scholarly, all-forgiving Dr. Edward (Uncle Bill) Wilson; Captain Robert Falcon Scott himself, a memorably complex man with a strong gift for command overlying deep inner fears and anxieties; Lieut. Henry (Birdie) Bowers, an endlessly energetic, curious, squat adventurer who has roved the world's perilous places alone; and aloof, sardonic, aristocratic Capt. Lawrence (Titus) Oates, a rich man beginning to realize his essential humanity in the months before his death. Every Englishman knows the agonizing end of their story, only hinted at in the book by a schoolgirl's map of their final death march back from the South Pole after being beaten there by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. A whole lost era of fantastic courage, determination, idealism, curiosity, boyish foolishness and class mores is brought brilliantly and touchingly back by Bainbridge's penetrating psychological acumen and her superb scene and action painting. The beauty and horror of the desolate landscapes, the painful limits of human endurance and bravery, are unforgettably caught in prose that is as swift, cool and clear as ice melt. A masterly achievement, not to be missed by anyone who cherishes a strong, meaningful story beautifully told. (Apr.)

The story of Capt. Robert Scott's second expedition is narrated by Scott himself and the four men who perished along with him in the frigid weather and miserable conditions of Antarctica. Beginning with their June 1910 departure from Cardiff on the Terra Nova , and ending with the terrible journey by sled back to the ship in March 1912, the five men consecutively recount their journey through an emotional as well as physical landscape, from pride in the idea of taking part in the expedition, to excitement over the beauty of the terrain and the scientific discoveries they've made, to sick disappointment at learning that Amundsen had beaten them to the South Pole, and, finally, to despair over their certain deaths. Writing in economical, occasionally poetic prose, with fidelity to the historial accounts, Bainbridge has succeeded in re-creating the lives and deaths of a group of brave and doomed men. Recommended for general collections.-- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle, Wash .

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