Dame Beryl Bainbridge (1932–2010) is acknowledged as one of the greatest British novelists of her time. She was the author of two travel books, five plays, and seventeen novels, five of which were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, including Master Georgie, which went on to win the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the WHSmith Literary Award. She was also awarded the Whitbread Literary Award twice, for Injury Time and Every Man for Himself. In 2011, a special Man Booker “Best of Beryl” Prize was awarded in her honor, voted for by members of the public.
Born in Liverpool and raised in nearby Formby, Bainbridge spent her early years working as an actress, leaving the theater to have her first child. Her first novel, Harriet Said . . ., was written around this time, although it was rejected by several publishers who found it “indecent.” Her first published works were Another Part of the Wood and An Awfully Big Adventure, and many of her early novels retell her Liverpudlian childhood. A number of her books have been adapted for the screen, most notably An Awfully Big Adventure, which is set in provincial theater and was made into a film by Mike Newell, starring Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant. She later turned to more historical themes, such as the Scott Expedition in The Birthday Boys, a retelling of the Titanic story in Every Man for Himself, and Master Georgie, which follows Liverpudlians during the Crimean War. Her no-word-wasted style and tight plotting have won her critical acclaim and a committed following. Bainbridge regularly contributed articles and reviews to the Guardian, Observer, and Spectator, among others, and she was the Oldie’s longstanding theater critic. In 2008, she appeared at number twenty-six in a list of the fifty most important novelists since 1945 compiled by the Times (London). At the time of her death, Bainbridge was working on a new novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, which was published posthumously.