Tag Archives: Titanic

Every Man For Himself – Beryl Bainbridge

I have been questioning if I should post about ‘Every Man for Himself’, Beryl Bainbridge’s novel about the Titanic, because what should be a memorial of 100 years since the tragic and shocking event seems to have become some kind of celebration and cash cow to my mind. To completely contradict what I’ve just said though, I did pick this as my next Beryl Bainbridge novel because it was about the Titanic and the anniversary was approaching. What a brimming sack of contradictions my mind is! I’m hoping in doing this post I’m not seen as jumping on a band wagon but wanting to mark this day in some way. I will actually be at the Titanic exhibition in Liverpool today when you read this.

Abacus Books, paperback, 1996, fiction, 224 pages, from the TBR

‘Every Man for Himself’, to summarise succinctly, is the tale of a young american man Morgan and the four fateful days that he sails on the Titanic. That simply is the story, right there.

Through Morgan’s narration Bainbridge creates an interesting viewpoint of society at the time. Morgan in rich, not by birth through ‘family’ rather a benefactor Uncle. He is seen as the nouveau riche which is a curse and a blessing amongst the richest of the rich who sailed onboard, for it was the ticket to have. He is idealistic though and so his sympathies lie with the lower classes on board and the staff, ‘the unfortunates’.

‘It was then he said, ‘Does it not occur to you that none of them are normal?’ At first I put up a defence, mostly because I feared I was included in their number, but soon fell silent. Nothing he said could be disputed. My friends, he argued, were not living in the proper world. Their wealth, their poorly nurtured childhoods, their narrow education, their lack of morals separated them from reality. Some, those with more intelligence, might struggle to break away, and succeed for a short time, but in the end, like the action of a boomerang, it was inevitable they would return to the starting point. ‘Then there’s little hope for me,’ I said.’

It’s this mix of societies in such a small place which seems to be a perfect way for Beryl to make her viewpoints on the upper classes vs the lower. It weaves an interesting tension though means the cast of characters are rather dislikable.

As I have said its a book brimming with ideas yet one which doesn’t have the fastest of pace, that’s not a critique either. When reading this novel I pondered over its slow burning nature. I considered if maybe Beryl thought we knew what was coming for the Titanic, I won’t say if Morgan survives or not so you read it, so the story meanders and builds. This of course means she can build the tension delicately leading to the inevitable conclusion. (I was shocked to see on Twitter some people had no idea it was real and thought it was ‘just a film’, what?)

The tragic moment itself however does anything but dwindle. I found myself incredibly moved as Bainbridge writes the moment from the infamous iceberg until Titanic sinks. I was even routing for some of the most unpleasant characters and the extent of the tragedy and speed which it takes place, the change from ‘jolly japes’ to panic, is vividly captured.

‘Everyman For Himself’ is a vey compelling, moving and cleverly constructed and crafted novel. The title seems obvious knowing the shortage of life boats but actually in the case of this novel I would say it is the general theme of the characters motivations in live whatever class, even Morgan as he watches them all on our behalf.

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Filed under Abacus Books, Beryl Bainbridge, Review

A Lovely Trip to Liverpool…

On Monday I had the pleasure of going to the head offices of The Reader Organisation to meet them and see what they do and if I might be of any use/benefit/something to them. The meeting wasn’t until the afternoon and so as it was in Liverpool, a city I have been through but never actually wandered around, I thought I would make a day of it. So I thought, with the power of the virtual world, I would take you all with me, especially as it has become a ‘city of culture’ in the UK in the last few years.

Liverpool is a city that really I know nothing about which is rather naughty really considering that part of my heritage is from there. Granny Savidge Reads and her routes are in fact from Liverpool, the Wirral and Southport, so there is some Mersey blood in me somewhere. I am sure that my Uncle Derrick (Gran’s brother who used to tell me Sherlock Holmes tales on long walking holidays) once told me that if you see ‘Hill’ on a drain cover in the north that’s because that side of my family made them. How true this is could be debateable knowing the sense of humour of my great uncles and the fact that he was known to exaggerate, I will have to ask Gran this weekend. Anyway as I left the station I was instantly hit by the grandeur of the surrounding buildings, mainly museums.

I decided that my first port of call, pun intended, would be the Albert Docks down by the Mersey. It was weird walking around the city because when I was younger the only soap opera that my Mum and I would watch was Brookside and so I kept seeing buildings from the title sequence and so the theme tune was in my head for most of the day. If you haven’t seen it you can here. When I reached the docks I was stunned by what greeted me, the mix of modern and older buildings is quite something.

The reason for my visit there was to see the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Knowing that I don’t like boats or books based on boats you might find this odd. However there is an exhibition on the Titanic there and as I have something planned for the blog on the 100th anniversary I wanted more insight into it, more on that soon…

After being submerged/immersed in the history and events of the Titanic I popped next door to the Tate Liverpool…

I had a good old wander round; art is very subjective so I don’t want to bore you with everything I saw, looking at the permanent exhibitions. I have to say I do prefer going around art galleries on my own, I think it’s a very personal experience and some things you walk past and think ‘meh’ and others you feel like staring at for hours. I find if I am with a group you are all at different paces and I either rush… or get bored. I did pop and see the temporary exhibition but I didn’t think you would want to see what was inside. Is this sort of thing really art?

The other reason I was excited about the Albert Docks, and this is quite sad to admit, was that when I was a teenager this was where the UK’s breakfast show ‘This Morning’ was filmed. Who knew that this very spot would be where the Richard and Judy Book Club was started… sort of. I was sad to find that Fred’s floating weather map was no longer in the middle (if you are thinking ‘what??’ the weather man on This Morning used to do the weather in the middle of the dock on a floating set of the British Isles, whenever he jumped over to island we all watched in case he fell in.)

Now of course I couldn’t mention, or really go to, Liverpool without paying homage to their most famous export, The Beatles. I have to say I am not a huge fan (I think my Gran might have seen them at the Cavern, again this could be an Uncle Derrick story) but I do like some of their songs and it would have been foolhardy of me not to have found the cavern…

Only that wasn’t The Cavern, this was…

Oh no that’s not right, this is where it used to be…

I got very confused. The morning had whizzed by and so it was time to head to The Reader Organisation’s headquarters. I don’t want to talk too much about what went on, in case I jinx it, but it was wonderful to meet the staff and hear their stories of how the reading groups they run aren’t changing lives but are making them fuller and happier, plus then the Director of the company Jane who discussed why and how she set it up. I will admit at some of the stories, which were incredibly touching, I welled up. I then had to swiftly compose myself as I was taking part in a reading group, reading aloud (eek) and reading Shakespeare and poetry (my heart dropped) yet reading it and discussing it was wonderful (I am not quite converted, yet) and really got me into it, because there were no right or wrong answers.

A few hours later and it was time to head back (I did manage to pass, and fall into, a bookshop on the way but I will report more on that tomorrow)  as I was due to meet a certain Polly of Novel Insights, as we were off to have a lovely dinner before going to see the singer Caro Emerald. She was AMAZING, if you ever get the chance you must see her. Stunning.

There was some boogying in the aisles from me and Polly but all too soon it was time to say goodbye.  After 26 years of friendship we were both discussing how scary it is now we are thirty… before we then started to pretend we were auditioning for Spooks in Manchester Station while we waited for her bus.

I am not sure I am ever going to really grow up. Anyway, what a day! Liverpool I thoroughly loved you, I will be back very soon. Have any of you been to Liverpool, is there anything I missed? If you haven’t been to Liverpool do go! Where have you been off to for a visit recently? Shall I take you on more of these trips, by the power of the internet and a bit of imagination, in the future?

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