If anyone out there is reading No Place for Ladies by Helen Rappaport or Mrs Duberley's Diary then for goodness sake dash off and read Master Georgie too.I have no idea where Beryl Bainbrdige did her research but Susan Hill was right, it makes a perfect novel alongside both these books.
Here's my copy with a fascinating cover illustration that has really kept my attention.I've looked at it closely and spotted more detail each time I've picked the book up.
I've already held my hands up to a lifetime of the Battle of Beryl and try as I may I've failed where others flourish, until now and this is the book. Perhaps it's because I'm now so clued up on Balaclava, Sebastopol and I'm half Liverpudlian so it all helped me follow on the trail of four memorable characters as they travel from the streets of Liverpool to the battlefield of Inkerman.
Once I had overcome initial confusion about narrators and quickly realised that the identities were staring me in the face, I was completely involved with the sheer cleverness of this book.Different perspectives on each other and sparse details with hints and clues dropped here and there.The plotting is perfect, back and forth building up the picture, reminding us about past events and the full horror of war dealt with in a very pragmatic way. Limbs and entrails all over the place and a quote about Georgie, who is working as a field surgeon (ie doing amputations 24/7), that ties in perfectly with something I mentioned about Mrs Duberley's apparent compassion fatigue
"There's a sameness about death that makes the emotions stiffen - which is for the best, else one would be uselessly crying the day long...dealing with the dying,one must either blunt the senses or go mad"
Master Georgie is another read that dispels any myths that may still be lingering out there about British military pride during the Crimean war, how any could be salvaged despite Tennyson's brave poetic attempts I can't imagine.
No wonder when you read, courtesy of Mrs Duberley, about the good old Knitwear Generals; Lord Cardigan forbidding his men to wear their cloaks at night because it looked effeminate or Lord Raglan (fancy having a sleeve named after you when you only had one arm, nothing like rubbing it in) and his punishing training schedules that left the troops decimated and exhausted before a shot had even been fired.It might actually have been Lord Stocking Stitch I'm starting to get confused, but anyway you realise what an
unravelled unrivalled shambles it all must have been.
Mrs Duberley certainly spotted all that and Beryl Bainbridge has added more.
Great read, so now that I'm a born-again Berylite I'm off to see just what she did with the Titanic and Captain Scott and I note from a stroll around The Book Depository that some of the books seem to be going out of print, surely not?