Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Weekend With Claude - Beryl Bainbridge

I left town this weekend to spend in the countryside, my weekend has been rather quieter than the one Bainbridge gives us here. Highlights for me have been transplanting things around the garden, picking the first of my rhubarb (I've waited two years for it to be ready so this first crop has been hotly anticipated, here's hoping it makes the best crumble ever - unlikely, I know I've overdone the crumble bit) , and that's about it, so all very calm and relaxing. 

This was my second outing with Bainbridge, picked to counterbalance 'Miss Buncle Married' and 'The Blue Castle' which I assumed (rightly) would be light and charming, I also assumed (rightly) that Bainbridge would be altogether darker and spikier, so a good foil. The book hangs around Lily but is narrated by four different characters. Lily herself, Norman, Shebah, and to some extent Claude. Lily has bought Norman, Shebah, and Edward to spend a night with Claude and his mistress Julia amongst their treasures in the country. Norman, Shebah, Lily, and Claude are old friends with lives they've allowed to become overly involved and interdependent. Edward has been chosen by Lily to be a father for the possible child she might be carrying and to this end he has to be made to believe he might be the father. She has asked her friends to tell Edward nice things about her in the hope that he'll propose and all will end happily.

This seems an unlikely out come, Lily is slutish in her domestic habits, free with her affections, too dependant on her friends, and far too dependant on her own emotional chaos to settle down into a happy or effective marriage. Second book in and clear themes and motifs are also emerging, Bainbridge alludes to the same sort of childhood as she did in 'A Quiet Life' and I assume that there is a good pinch of autobiography here. 

I  enjoyed 'A Quiet Life' more, but mostly because it was completely new to me, reading 'A Weekend With Claude' only a few weeks after meant that some of the shared details between the books felt repetitive in a way that wouldn't occur after the year or two that normally comes between books as they're published - it's something I'm going to bear in mind for reading the other two Bainbridge's I have waiting. What I lacked in enjoyment however was more than made up for in insight. Bainbridge is merciless in her portraits, brilliant too. 

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