The Dressmaker at 50: a novel that encapsulates Beryl Bainbridge’s idiosyncrasies
An uncompromising and funny story of love and death, The Dressmaker was the first of five novels by Beryl Bainbridge to be shortlisted for the Booker.
Beryl Bainbridge, who died in 2010, was a Booker Prize heroine. Although Bainbridge was shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, she never won. Some degree of correction occurred in 2011 when, after a public vote, her 1998-shortlisted novel Master Georgie won a one-off prize, The Man Booker Best of Beryl.
She was an actress (appearing in Coronation Street) before becoming a novelist and much-loved, cigarette-dangling public figure. The author of 20 novels, she found her greatest success with historical fiction. Of the 1977 judging, she recalled that the chair, Philip Larkin, ‘was completely silent most of the time. Nobody dared say a word to him and he never said a word back.’ Of her own multiple nominations, she said: ‘I’m just very pleased to have been noticed’.