Beryl Bainbridge is the type of author one comes across and instantly falls in love with. I had never heard of her and my reading ‘Master Georgie’ was an appointment with Fate that I never knew I was late for.
The book is an exposition of unrequited love, debased sexuality and forced patriotism all blended to form an intellectual and emotional masterpiece that stands far above contemporary literary works. It has two protagonists; Dr George Hardy a Surgeon and photography enthusiast and Myrtle the orphan whose age and surname no one really knows for sure. The two’s relationship forms the dynamics of the story and can be best described as the tale of a young girl in love with her adoptive brother who dithers on the brink of homosexuality and alcoholism. The other characters (Dr Potter the irritatingly academic geologist and Pompey Jones the handsome street urchin) serve to cushion the heavy glut of tragedy that oozes from each page.
The literary style is clean and lean. The use of words is so well placed one gets a feeling that the author wrote and re-wrote the book until the English language itself gave in to her whims. Humor is definitely not in short supply in this work of art though it will take the average reader considerable effort to glean from the novel. ‘Master Georgie’ has dispelled my previously drab notion that literature is dead and has been replaced by pulp novels with no depth and inspiration.
It is said Bainbridge herself proclaimed that the book has to be read at least three times for one to fully understand it. Perhaps she was right but to me it will take only half a reading to appreciate its sadistic beauty. I was thoroughly impressed and would recommend it to anyone who truly loves literature for literature’s sake.