Forever England – Beryl Bainbridge (1987)

Forever England book coverBeryl Bainbridge grew up in 1940’s Liverpool and then moved to London when she was sixteen. All her family (related through birth) are still up in Liverpool, and she has described her life as having to straddle two different worlds: the North and the South (of UK).

I hadn’t really thought about England being divided into two worlds, but BB’s book emphasizes the differences as she sees them through a combination of interviews with six different families from both ends of the country that is interspersed with her memories of her own growing up in the North with her family.

Each family who is interviewed gets its own chapter wherein multiple viewpoints are demonstrated. There is not a set formula to each, but more of a rambling reported conversation that you might have with these guys over a cuppa tea. BB seems to have written down the exact conversations (in paragraph form) as I found I could “hear” the dialects as I read through the pages.

Driving "Up North" in UK...I didn’t have a lot of experience “Up North” (as they say); most of it was through the frequent car trips to weekend swimming galas (meets) in various towns and cities such as Leeds and Blackpool, so my strongest memories of the North are of old swimming pools and swimming friends who were also competitors. However, I do remember the long drive cramped in the back seat of a Mini sitting next to a pile of swimming gear in large bags. The cities seemed to be very grey and industrial, but apart from that, the details are fuzzy. (Again, loads of time spent on the side of the pool…)

BB alternates between families of similar income group but who are really pretty different otherwise (e.g. coal  miner family compared with an accountant family), and I’d be interested to see an updated version of this book to see if the differences are still so pronounced now that the world is smaller in so many ways.

Note Aside: Where are all the editors/proof-readers of the last four books I have been reading? Typos in every book I’ve read since Christmas. Bah. Turn your spell check ON, peeps. (N.B. This blog is an exception to that rule and rant. Ha.)

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