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According to Queeney

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  654 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Bainbridge's brilliantly imagined, universally acclaimed, Booker Prize-longlisted novel portrays the inordinate appetites and unrequited love touched off when the most celebrated man of eighteenth-century English letters, Samuel Johnson, enters the domain of a wealthy Southwark brewer and his wife, Hester Thrale. The melancholic, middle-aged lexicographer plunges into an i ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 14th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 2001)
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99th out of 317 books — 67 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,334)
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·Karen·
Jun 16, 2012 ·Karen· rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits, mttbr-2012


Ms Bainbridge did herself a disservice here by writing herself into redundancy. There is such an overload of names within the first two chapters, names that are not attached to any place, biography or relationship. Nevertheless they are off and running barely clothed as yet: a Mrs Williams questioning him (and no, we don't know who 'he' is yet) when he returns from the Thrales', then falling out with Mrs Desmoulins, taking a tumble and hurting her knee because Mr Levet, so she said, had left his
...more
James Barker
As a fan of Beryl Bainbridge I have been uncertain of her forays into historical fiction- 'Every Man For Himself' (set on board the Titanic) and 'Young Adolf' (an account of Hitler's visit to Liverpool "before he was [in]famous") were lacking something intrinsically necessary- good stories told to their fullest. But 'According to Queeney,' with its focus on the last 20 years in the life of Dr Johnson, is sublime, and easily matches 'The Birthday Boys,' Bainbridge's storytelling of Captain Scott' ...more
Sibyl
Aug 13, 2013 Sibyl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a subtle, quirky, funny, tragic book. On one level it is about the life of Dr Johnson and his circle - but I think it's really about desire and frustration. The novel is also about the way in which lives keep being rewritten. Queeney the daughter of Mrs Thrale - who was beloved by Johnson - keeps getting letters from a would-be biographer of the great man. As a 'proper' young woman, Queeny gives unreliable testimony about the events of her childhood. Is this because she remembers a great ...more
Shane
Oct 22, 2011 Shane rated it really liked it
Samuel Johnson was a remarkable man in his time. The creator of the Johnson Dictionary, a precursor to the Oxford English version, the man was a critic, poet and intellectual, blessed with a robust constitution and yet plagued by the “black dog” of death and prone to jerky movement now put down to Tourette’s Syndrome.

This book covers the last twenty years of his life when the aging, dropsied and gout ridden giant of letters, failing in eyesight, begins to frequent the company of the wealthy Thra
...more
Fred
Apr 22, 2009 Fred rated it it was amazing
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 nuan ...more
Judy
Jul 18, 2008 Judy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As an admirer of Dr Johnson,I was keen to read this novel about his friendship with fellow-writer Hester Thrale - since reading this I've also read some of her own writings and am now a fan of her too. However, I was disappointed with the novel because I didn't feel its portrayal of either of them was very convincing - Johnson in particular isn't nearly witty enough.

At the time I read it, I noted down that the thing which
disturbed me about it was the pervasive theme of physical decay - there se
...more
TwoDrinks
Jul 30, 2014 TwoDrinks rated it did not like it
After reading two thirds I decided I couldn't be chewed to read on any longer because although I had read so much, I was no further on understanding the plot save for becoming more and more irritated with Samuel Johnson. The small asides afforded by Queeney's insolence and devilment were the only rays of sunshine in what was a tedious read. I did, however, like the style of writing. It was descriptive in a way I've not seen before and there were some great passages that I can't be arsed, for rea ...more
Robert Leatherby
Mar 27, 2014 Robert Leatherby rated it really liked it
Samuel Johnson was not a man I knew much about, but Bainbridge's biopic in According to Queeney brought this eccentric and often difficult character to life.

The first chapter was a difficult read as there are many names mentioned, and their relationships to one another are not initially explained. Once you get past the difficult beginning the book begins to flow nicely.

Johnson is a fascinating character, and this novel focusses on his later years which are plagued by illness and where his person
...more
Lizzie
May 19, 2010 Lizzie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2010
Dr. Samuel Johnson, the lexicographer and English man of letters, became friends with the wealthy brewer Henry Thrale and his wife Hester, and lived with them at their country and London homes for seventeen years. What's known is that Johnson and Mrs Thrale had some kind of flirtation; it doesn't seem to be known how far that went. Queeney is the eldest daughter of the Thrales, who observes her mother, Johnson, and other goings on in the strange household.

This book describes a various episodes
...more
John Newcomb
Jan 29, 2016 John Newcomb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I forgot how good Beryl Bainbridge can be. In this excursion to the past we are taken to the circle of Dr Johnson as remembered by the precocious Queeney Thrale. I feel the need perhaps to read some Johnson again as it has been a while.
Catherine
Jun 27, 2010 Catherine rated it it was ok
This reads like a well-done sketch for a novel about Samuel Johnson, Hester Thrale and the Thrale family. There are many interesting historical details - Bainbridge's research is quite impressive - but there was no story to pull me in, no characters to get attached to. Bainbridge switches perspectives quite a bit, which gets frustrating, as "Why do I care about this minor character's POV of this event?" I was expecting something more substantial.
Bkwormmegs
Jan 07, 2016 Bkwormmegs rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but have a hard time figuring out why I enjoyed it! I loved the way the third party narration was always subtly a character's subjective point of view. The picture of Johnson is interesting - he is pleasure bound, intelligent but childish in the extreme.

"...it had...occurred to her how curious it was that, in order to express themselves, great men constantly relied on the thoughts of those long dead." p12.
Don
Dec 09, 2014 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel succeeds in that it shows how Dr. Johnson views himself in contrast to how others saw him. It is far from a classic, however, because it needs the earlier life of Samuel to enlarge the subject matter. This story begins with a funeral and ends with the same one, basically. The action in between marks a slow march to the grave, and most of it seems insignificant. Samuel who is first presented as insane recovers only to feel remorse for the way he has treated his deceased wife, father an ...more
Harry
This novel which would probably now be known as "faction" is based on the final decade in the life of Samuel Johnson. Johnson's suffered from depression all his life and following the completion of the dictionary he hit a particularly bad patch, not helped by his chaotic home and financial life. He was taken in by the brewer Henry Thrale who provided Johnson with a bedroom in his home where Johnson's eccentricities were overlooked. This is a novel speculating on the relationship between Johnson ...more
Bonnie
Jul 05, 2014 Bonnie rated it liked it
This book tells the tale of the last years of Samuel Johnson's (compiler of one of the most influential English dictionaries, among other things) life, focusing on his time spent with the Thrales', and even more specifically, on Queeney Thrales, the eldest daughter of the family.

Reading this book is sort of like the literary equivalent of watching Gosford Park. You start out with an excess of characters thrown at you, none of which you're really sure about, and then as the story evolves, you get
...more
Madelaine
Sep 12, 2010 Madelaine rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Couldn't finish this (life is too short to read a book I don't enjoy)
Trice
Jan 09, 2015 Trice rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, never-finished
01/17/2011 I started this one yesterday or the day before. These people are all quite horrible, children and famous gent inclusive... but I feel some strange sort of need to finish the book. I'm up to page 134 of 244. There are some pretty hilarious misunderstandings as the author jumps between perspectives, though, and I have to say, Mrs. Thrace seems the most misunderstood of the crowd and, though at least one of the reviewers listed in the front of the book reflects on her as the worst or mos ...more
M.M. Bennetts
Nov 12, 2010 M.M. Bennetts rated it did not like it
This review was originally published in The Christian Science Monitor.

Sometime before 1765, Samuel Johnson–-inventor and author of the dictionary, philosopher, philanthropist, a literary and literal giant of a man–-met Henry Thrale, a wealthy brewer, and his wife. In the ensuing years, Johnson came first to dine and then to reside frequently with the Thrales.

His presence in their home acted as a magnet to those of the London literary world, transforming Mrs. Thrale’s Drawing room into one of th
...more
Fence
Jul 04, 2010 Fence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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 s
...more
Kaph
Verdict: A fresh look at the inestimable Samuel Johnson and life in 1764, warts and all. Lots and lots of warts. It’s just warts, really. Possibly improved by doing the pre-rec reading.

I may as well admit to this; I’m one of those people who express (occasionally out-loud and in mixed company) a desire to live in the past. I’ve come to terms with this facet of my personality and it’s time you did too. Typically literature tends to intensify my longing for a TARDIS but Bainbridge decisively broke
...more
Geraldine
This isn't for me. I'm just not interested in the subject matter. Not interested in Dr Johnson except that he has a road named after him on Tooting Common close to Streatham Park.

Not interested in the other characters who crop up. It seems very dull to me.

I'll try a more modern Beryl Bainbridge book in due course. I don't dislike her writing style and I can see the point of this book. It's just not for me.
Brenda
Sep 10, 2013 Brenda rated it liked it
A new author to me I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. Usually I enjoy novels that are wound around historical figures but in this case it wasn't a page turner for me. This is a story about Samuel Johnson and his contemporaries, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell, Fanny Burney etc. Set during the last 20 years of his life, it explores the relationship between him and the Thrale family, especially Harriet and Queeney - wife and daughter of his benefactor. A point in it's favour for me, at lea ...more
Gary
Aug 13, 2014 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, engaging, thought provoking, I knew little about the actual people Bainbridge is writing about but it didn't matter, she made all of them come alive with an extraordinary economy.
David
Nov 07, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Does for Johnson what The Master does for Henry James, i.e. bring to life a seemingly staid character entrenched in literary history, showing him in his daily life and human interactions, his uncertainties, hopes and fears. Many touching moments, and it’s a very short book too. You don’t have to be a fan of Johnson to get pleasure from it. Sometimes humorous and often whimsical. I think the portrait of Queeney on the cover of my copy is poignant too. She looks bright-eyed and mischievous and ful ...more
Hilary Greenleaf
Aug 06, 2013 Hilary Greenleaf rated it it was amazing
When you had fathomed out who was who this was a very enjoyable book on many levels. It was for me a lovely insight into domestic life in 18th C London and a fascinating speculation into the lives and motivations of Johnson and the Thrales. It was wonderfully funny and wonderfully sad. Themes of mortality and change were woven into the passing of the years and the title was explained by the subjective and sometimes less than truthful recollections of Queenie in her interspersed letters. Beautifu ...more
Siria
A novella which deals with the later years of Samuel Johnson, his clever, vivacious friend Hester Thrale, and Hester's young daughter, Queeney, who watches their relationship from the sidelines. It's a novel based on much original research, but the tone is somewhat uneven, the diction occasionally wobbling far away from authenticity, and the constant switching of point-of-view, sometimes within the same paragraph, made for disorienting and occasionally irritating viewing.
Karen
Jan 13, 2016 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I never got to grips with this book. Too many names and I felt the storyline jumped around and I didn't feel I was 'part' of what was going on; just couldn't get into it. I got as far as page 74 but still felt that not great deal was happening so I gave up.
Paula Dembeck
Aug 16, 2013 Paula Dembeck rated it it was ok
Dr Samuel Johnson, a man of letters suffers from melancholia and gout. he accepts the invitation from a wealthy southwest brewer Henry Thale to visit his house and spend time there. He meets Mrs. Thale and this marks the beginning of a twenty year relationship with this woman. Queenie is the spirited, precocious daughter of the Thrales, one of ten and it is she who offers her observations on this affair.

Long listed for the Booker Prize.

Not really mu cup of tea.
David
Nov 06, 2012 David rated it really liked it
A witty and sometimes irreverent look at the great man, it portrays Dr Johnson as plain old Sam by people who knew in his domestic and private life. It is accessible and the portrait Bainbridge gives of Dr Johnson certainly lives in the memory. For those who've not read anything by Beryl Bainbridge this novel may well get you starting to look out for her.
Eloise
Jan 26, 2014 Eloise rated it it was ok
Interesting, but glad it wasn't longer.
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Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge DBE was an English writer from Liverpool. She was primarily known for her works of psychological fiction, often set among the English working classes. Bainbridge won the Whitbread Award twice and was nominated for the Booker Prize five times. In 2008, The Times newspaper named Bainbridge among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
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