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According to Queeney (2001)

by Beryl Bainbridge

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5611931,245 (3.33)38
Dr Johnson, having completed his life's major work (the first ever Dictionary of the English Language) is running an increasingly chaotic life, torn between his strict morality and his undeclared passion for Mrs Thrale, the wife of an old friend. Her daughter, Queeney, narrates.



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English (18)  French (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This novel may possibly have had a greater impact on me if I knew anything about the life and times of Samuel Johnson apart from the fact that he wrote a dictionary, and of course that the Life of Samuel Johnson was written by Boswell. But I’ve never read it, and so am unfamiliar with Johnson, apart from the broadest of strokes. But while I may be lacking some of that knowledge I still really enjoyed this book.

We see a much different Johnson here than the one I’ve heard of, not a lot of genius showing, more depression and self-absorption.

The Queeney of the title is a child for much of the book, her mother and father have, in many ways, taken Johnson into their family and it is through this family, the Thrale’s that we see Johnson.

There are also letters interspersed with the story, Queeney’s written in adulthood to a cousin looking for information about Johnson. But the main part of the book is not specifically from Queeney’s POV, and this allows us to learn how wrong a lot of what Queeney thought about her mother Hester, was wrong.

This is an amusing little book, full of lines that’ll make you smile. Easy to read, and full of insights and interesting sentences. However, I never really got a sense of time from the book. The characters could have been from any era, not just that of Georgian England. Still, well worth a read. ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
I think you need to be at least a little familiar with Samuel Johnson to appreciate this book, but if you do I think it's a nice window onto him and his world. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
'Clever' rather than enjoyable or illuminating, Bainbridge concocts a believable picture of Johnson's life with the Thrales, told from a variety of perspectives. Sadly the book focuses on the pettiness and cruelty of its protagonists – their rivalries and domestic bickering – and dwells unnecessarily on the crude and salacious. A missed opportunity. ( )
  Lirmac | Jun 28, 2018 |
This is the second Beryl Bainbridge novel I've read, and I know I'll be reading many more. Because she writes in historical settings and, at least from what I've seen, about very English characters, one has to be willing not to have every detail and reference at hand while reading. One has to be willing to read up at least a little on the central characters (in this case, Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale) or the central even (in Master Georgie, it was the Crimean War) to best appreciate the nuances of the story, though not to understand the story itself. Other writers might take two or three times as many words to tell the same story, but Bainbridge is careful and spare in her choice of words, making her unusual in the world of historical fiction. To my mind, it also makes her superior.

While the historical backdrop is important, but it merely provides the framework for what Bainbridge does most brilliantly, and that is to grant the reader multiple viewpoints on the same events through the eyes of several key characters. The result is that one comes away with a fuller understanding of the story than do any of the characters, while at the same time gaining insight into the pervasive effect of subjectivity in interpreting one's life. None of Bainbridge's characters, no matter how brilliant or how practical, escapes influence of their subjective interpretations of events. To some degree, even the reader is implicated, because the revelations of these varying interpretations come about by degrees, so we are spared a tedious omniscient narrator's view of the characters and events. Bainbridge's doubled and sometimes tripled views of events emerge slowly over the course of the novel, and the insights are all the more rewarding for the delay and the reliance on the reader's memory to fill in the gaps.

The plot of the book is much less important than the manner in which events unfold. In short, the novel covers primarily the twenty-year period in which Samuel Johnson was an intimate friend of Henry and Hester Thrale's. But as Bainbridge is a psychological novelist masquerading as a historical novelist, the real story takes place in the characters' relating to one another and revealing the passions, desires, and fears that drive them. ( )
  phredfrancis | Feb 8, 2014 |
Could not see the point of it all. Well written but could hardly be called a novel. Would have preferred an actual biography. ( )
  bergs47 | Feb 22, 2013 |
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To Andrew and Margaret Hewson, with affection and gratitude
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On the morning of the 15th December, 1784, a day of bleak skies heralding snow, a box-cart rattled into Bolt Court and drew up outside No. 8.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Dr Johnson, having completed his life's major work (the first ever Dictionary of the English Language) is running an increasingly chaotic life, torn between his strict morality and his undeclared passion for Mrs Thrale, the wife of an old friend. Her daughter, Queeney, narrates.

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