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Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge

Harriet Said (1977)

by Beryl Bainbridge

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 5 of 5
This is the third book I've read based on/inspired by the infamous Parker-Hulme murder case (I've still yet to read [b:The Wicked Girls|11940384|The Wicked Girls|Alex Marwood|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1340853882s/11940384.jpg|16901602]).

While this isn't as fun as the lesbian pulp fiction take, [b:The Evil Friendship|1152169|The Evil Friendship|Vin Packer|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1181434613s/1152169.jpg|1139653], it also isn't as dry as [b:Obsession|6477182|Obsession|Tom Gurr|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|6668385] either (the latter being almost more biographical than fiction). Rather, this book is more like [b:The Wives of Bath|227789|The Wives of Bath|Susan Swan|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388769078s/227789.jpg|1465396], wherein it's loosely based off of certain aspects of the case, and then the author runs in their own direction.

It's a short, quick little read. Of course the two main girls are just as annoying, amoral, and insidious as one would expect them to be. As always with this subject, there's a plot thread of a sexual/romantic link between the girls -- here, unlike in other places, it's more a subtle undercurrent, but you definitely don't have to squint to see it.

There's an awful lot of almost pedophilia, which I found kind of weird ... and really uncomfortable, at times, particularly because it was mentioned in so flippant a way. (The book doesn't do much in the way of digging down deep into the characters' psyches).

I probably would have rated this higher if it was longer, truth be told. ( )
1 vote majesdane | Aug 8, 2017 |
"When I say scream, you scream"
By sally tarbox on 30 May 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
A really intense, atmospheric and disturbing novel, set in a seaside town around 1950. The hefty 13 year old narrator is dominated by her adored chum Harriet. A knowing teen, able to charm those around her while secretly mocking them, Harriet determines what the pair will get up to one long, hot summer. On the cusp of adulthood, they are keen to try out their attractions on the men around them, and the narrator imagines she is falling for 'The Tsar', an unhappily married older man and friend of her father. But when the Tsar dares tell Harriet a few home truths, she involves her friend in a plot to humiliate him and his wife...
Beryl Bainbridge vividly conjures up the post-War era, and the adolescent mind. The general theme of the story is based around the true-life teenage killers featured in the movie 'Heavenly Creatures'. ( )
1 vote starbox | May 29, 2017 |
Spin-off reading, from "Anne Perry, Murder of the Century". 1972 book - first book by Beryl Bainbridge, based on the 1954 matricide by Perry and her friend - bashed friend's mother to death with a brick at ages 14,15.
Bainbridge writes a complex psychological horror story of 13 & 14 yr old and their cruel 'experiences' of a summer holiday. Narrator(nameless)is somewhat dominated and lead by Harriet, yet strong enough to manage hew own manipulations at times.
However, obvious Moral of the Story: ooops - Don't listen to Harriet! ( )
1 vote CasaBooks | Mar 14, 2014 |
Beryl Bainbridge's first novel, unpublished till later in her career. It's rather odd, about two precocious girls who prey on an older man. The narrator is in thrall to Harriet, her adored friend who directs their schemes and the diary entries where they write about their adventures. For me it had a lot of personal resonance, so I liked it. There is a convincing aura of menace over the whole thing that I enjoyed too. ( )
2 vote piemouth | Sep 6, 2013 |
Harriet Said was Beryl’s first work written in the late 1950s. However it ended up as her third published novel, as its darkness struggled to find a publisher initially. It is the story of two teenaged schoolgirls and what they got up to one summer holiday…

The two girls are an odd pairing. Our narrator, who remains unnamed, is the thirteen year old ‘stout’ follower of Harriet. A boarder, she longs for the school holidays and being able to see her friend again back on the Lancashire coast. She looks up to Harriet who is slightly older than her; indeed she loves her in a schoolgirl way, and will do anything for her. Harriet, you sense right from the beginning, is a wicked girl – always scheming, endlessly nosey about their neighbours. You know that something has happened, right from the first pages of the book…

"Harriet said: ‘No you don’t, you keep walking.’ I wanted to turn round and look back at the dark house but she tugged at my arm fiercely. We walked over the field hand in hand as if we were little girls."

After the short opening chapter, the story flashes back to the start of the summer. The girls latch onto a man, Mr Biggs, that they see out and about, getting some time alone from his wife. He seems flattered by the girls’ attention, and the narrator begins to have rather a crush on him. Together, they dream up a scheme to humiliate him and his wife, but like all ill-conceived plans, it goes dreadfully wrong.

Bainbridge’s style of dropping the reader straight into the action, without much scene-setting is evident right from the off. This always gives an initial challenge in getting to grips with the characters, but pays off dividends in getting into the story quickly, and the lack of padding gives space for some lovely detail.

It is hinted that the girls, while still under-age, are no strangers to being a tease, one reason why the narrator was shipped off to boarding school. Their parents though, appear to have no idea what they are getting up to. The narrator’s mother is more concerned with her younger sister; Harriet’s folks are nowhere to be seen. The freedom the girls have to be out and about is shocking to us these days, but they didn’t have TV of course.

Adolescent fantasies take on an air of horror, as the girls’ grooming in reverse takes its course. This is a dark debut indeed and doesn’t exhibit the black sense of humour that Bainbridge’s novels later developed, but it is a powerful story that absolutely hints of greatness to come. ( )
2 vote gaskella | Jun 26, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beryl Bainbridgeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Frieyro, AliciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Najman, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Lord Roland
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Harriet said:"No you don't, you keep walking".
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A girl returns from boarding school to her sleepy Merseyside hometown and waits to be reunited with her friend, Harriet, chief architect of all their past mischief. She roams along the shoreline and through the woods still pitted with wartime trenches, and encounters 'the Tsar' - almost old, unhappily married, both dangerously fascinating and repulsive.

Pretty, malevolent Harriet arrives, and over the course of the long holidays draws her friend into a scheme to beguile, then humiliate the Tsar, with disastrous, shocking consequences. A gripping portrayal of adolescent trangression, Beryl Bainbridge's classic first novel remains as subversive today as when it was written.
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After a spate of local robberies Vicky's hot on the trail of gypsies, tramps and thieves! When shortly afterwards there is a slew of sliver thefts in the area, blaming the despised uninvited guests. But when the body of an unnamed woman is found in a shallow stream, Vicky suspects there's a connection between the murder and the thefts.… (more)

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