Tale Told By A Lunatic
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Bainbridge, Beryl: THE BIRTHDAY BOYS (fiction) New York Da Capo Press 1994
ISBN: 0-7867-0071-8 As New Condition
In this stunning new novel, award-winning author Beryl Bainbridge offers a brilliantly fictionalized account of the doomed Antarctic expedition led by Captain Scott in 1912. At once hair-raising and beautiful, here is an astonishing tale of misguided courage and human endurance. The Birthday Boys of the title are Scott and four members of his team, each of whom narrates a section of the book. As the story progresses the reader discovers that these men may not be reliable reporters. Their cocky optimism is both ghastly and dangerous. Brought up to despise professional expertise, their enterprise is lunatic, amateur and gentlemanly. Beryl Bainbridge makes it hauntingly clear: the men are fatally doomed in their bravery, the very stuff of heroes. Captain Scott's poignant trek becomes, in this remarkable novel, an historical event which prefigures the terrible new world dawning in Europe. It was an inept rehearsal for the carnage of the first world war, the ultimate challenge for the arrogant generals who shared Scott's skewed notion of courage that led men qualmlessly into harm's way. Subtle, poetic and unforgettable, The Birthday Boys is impossible to read without experiencing that magical shiver up the spine which is caused when great writing touches the soul. Publishers Weekly 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.) Library Journal 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 learn Hardcover 6 x 9"
[SW: Scott, Robert Falcon, 1868-1912 -- Fiction, British Antarctic ("Terra Nova") Expedition, (1910-1913) -- Fiction, Discoveries in geography -- Fiction, British -- Antarctica -- Fiction, Antarctica -- Fiction, South Pole -- Fiction, Explorers -- Fiction, Bio]