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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 20 August 2017

"The Birthday Boys" by Beryl Bainbridge

The story of Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, told by each of the five in the final party. Each one is brought to flesh and blood life through their own words and through the opinions of the other s who tell their story. Evans is the working man who is in awe of Scott. Wilson, the doctor, is the man in whom Scott confides but his story is from the voyage down before Scott joined the party. Scott's story tells of his weakness and his struggle to make sure that no one in the expeditions learns of his weakness and his self-doubt; nevertheless he makes mistake after mistake though arrogance and narrow-mindedness.  We begin to see, through the story of Bowers who undertakes the "worst journey in the world" to collect the eggs of the Emperor Penguin, that Scott is a liability. Finally the story of Oates with the disappointment of getting to the pole and finding they had been beaten, confirms the growing realisation that Scott's leadership was fatally bad and that the men were doomed.

A wonderful, brilliantly written book. Wow! Must read some more of this author.

Great lines:
  • "Living ashore hits men differently. Some shuffle back into it like they've found an old pair of slippers and others can't walk easily, no matter how they're shod." (p 7)
  • "To be cold is when the snot freezes in your nostrils and your breath snaps like a fire-cracker on the air and falls to ice in your beard." (p 9)
  • "Some time in the small hours the clock on the landing stopped and the silence swelled up louder than the ticking. I thought of how in the morning Hugh Price would start it going once more, and how when my heart ceased to beat it would be for ever, there not being a key invented that could wind me up again." (p 28)
  • "It never ceases to puzzle me, that, while men's and women's bodies fit jigsaw-tight in an altogether miraculous way their minds remain wretchedly unaligned." (p 29)
  • "Better to say nothing than to condemn, and to laugh with than to criticise." (p 54)
  • "Abiding by the rules is a great help, you know ... it does away with introspection, leaves one free to get on with the game." (p 71)
  • "One only has the energy to die for one man at a time." (p 72)
  • "Bill held that the reputations of the remembered dead, from the insignificant mannikin to the most illustrious subject, underwent a change from the very moment of departure." (p 96) Nice foreshadowing
  • "Unlike Bill, who's been trained to dissect the dead, we three have been schooled to provide the corpses." (p 104) Nice bit of double meaning there!
  • "Any man who spends years trying to find out why grouse fall sick of a parasitic disease, and is tickled pink at discovering it's to do with some blob clinging to dew on the bracken, must have a very limited love of life." (p 166)
August 2017; 189 pages

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