I came across Beryl Bainbridge’s work after reading about her in the New York Times a few months ago. I was intrigued by the woman, her life, and her writing. And so I picked up Harriet Said: A Novel, which was Bainbridge’s first novel.
The book was one of the best I’ve ever read. I’m generally not inclined to go all praise the prose about writers because that’s a complement that is subjective. It assumes 1) that a single type of writing works for all stories, and 2) that the story was less important than the writing. But I don’t know how to write about Harriet Said without telling you that the words just fell off the page. Bainbridge tells a tight, taut story that unfolds in all of its horrifying details.
While the story is ostensibly about a murder, it’s really not. The story explores the toxic relationship between young girls, the toxic environment that young girls are subjected, and the things that break in adults that create those environments.
But it’s not preachy on the subject. Instead, Bainbridge simply lays bare the stories of the characters, allowing them to unfold before you eyes. You can see their world, and you can see its inevitable demise. And you can recognize it as the world around you.
I’ve had to set Bainbridge aside for a few months. The book was so haunting and raw, I needed to put a little distance between myself and her world. But now I’m anxious to dig into her second work.
And if you’ve not yet discovered Beryl Bainbridge, do that today.