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Authors: Beryl Bainbridge

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Another part of the wood

PENGUIN DECADES

Another Part of the Wood

Beryl Bainbridge was born in Liverpool in 1934. Educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, and expelled for a minor misdemeanor,
she began her working life as an actress at the Liverpool Repertory Theatre (an experience she drew on for her novel
An Awfully Big Adventure
), but with young children to bring up she took to writing. Her first novel,
A Weekend with Claude
, was published in 1967. She has written eighteen novels altogether, most recently
According to Queeney
, and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize a record five times.

She was awarded a DBE in 2000, and in 2003 won the prestigious David Cohen Prize for Literature, together with the poet Thom
Gunn. She lives in north London.

Another Part of the Wood
was the second of Beryl Bainbridge’s novels to be published, in 1968 – publication of
Harriet Said
followed, though in fact it was written before
Another Part of the Wood
. These early novels pre-date the historical fiction for which she is now well-known, and feature many of the concerns of
the sixties and seventies, but stylistically they share many of the characteristics of her later work.

Lynn Barber studied English at Oxford University. She began her career in journalism at
Penthouse
, and has since worked for a number of British newspapers and for
Vanity Fair
. She has won five British Press Awards. Her highly praised memoir
An Education
was published by Penguin in 2009, and has since become a successful film scripted by Nick Hornby.

Another Part of the Wood
BERYL BAINBRIDGE
PENGUIN BOOKS

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London
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, England

Penguin Group (USA), Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

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First published by Hutchinson 1968

Revised edition first published by Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd 1979

Published in Penguin Books 1992

Reissued with a new introduction in Penguin Books 2010

Copyright © Beryl Bainbridge, 1968, 1979

Introduction copyright © Lynn Barber, 2010

The moral right of the author and of the introducer has been asserted

All rights reserved

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book

ISBN: 978-0-14-196249-8

Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Introduction

Like all Beryl Bainbridge’s novels,
Another Part of the Wood
sets off at a cracking pace, and never slows down. We find ourselves immediately in a strange setting – a camp consisting
of huts and bunkhouses in a wood at the foot of a mountain somewhere in Wales. George, the son of the family who own the estate,
and Balfour, his assistant, are awaiting the arrival of Joseph. George regards Joseph as a great thinker and hopes to have
some serious tête-à-têtes about Art. But when Joseph arrives he is not alone: he has brought his girlfriend Dotty, his son
Roland, and an unexplained fat boy called Kidney whom he is hoping to save by making him do exercise. He also casually reveals
that he has invited another couple, Lionel and May, who will turn up later. So, the promised tête-à-têtes – like so many of
Joseph’s promises – never materialize.

The camp (based on a real camp Bainbridge once visited, built by a Liverpool philanthropist as a place for slum families to
get fresh air) is meant to be a sylvan paradise. But for the townee visitors it is a place of claustrophobia and discomfort.
The bunk beds are too small and poorly arranged; the blankets are scratchy and probably have fleas; there is much business
of finding matches and lighting paraffin lamps and stumbling outdoors in the dark to use the chemical loo. It is an uncomfortable
place, where uncomfortable things will happen.

The sense of impending disaster is relentless from first page to last. We know someone will get seriously hurt; the suspense
is not whodunit but who will do what, to whom? We guess the victim will probably be the child, Roland, or possibly the sinisterly
named Kidney. We gather there is something badly wrong with Kidney – he is overweight and ‘simple’ and has to keep taking
pills – but is he a possible murderer or, alternatively, a murderee? Or is he,
or Roland, going to be subject to sexual abuse? There seem to be plenty of potential abusers in this neck of the woods. Most
of the men are to some degree weird: George, the six foot eight giant who keeps talking about Jews; Balfour, his assistant,
who stutters and has funny turns; Willie, another local, who looks like one of those ‘pastoral Welshmen who called the cattle
home and loved to fondle little girls’; and Lionel, the dapper older man who seems to have a masochistic relationship with
his snappy wife, May. ‘How she abused him. How he loved her,’ he sighs.

Then there is Joseph, the central character of the book, based, according to Bainbridge, on her ex-husband, and depicted with
clear-eyed antipathy. He sees himself as a great idealist and patriarch, a saver of souls, a fount of liberal ideas and good
intentions. He has planned the holiday in the wood as a way of getting closer to his son, who lives with his ex-wife, and
he has promised Roland that they will climb the nearby mountain together and have proper father-son conversations. But Joseph
soon forgets his promise, being distracted by his girlfriend Dotty and his ‘project’ Kidney. He is already bored with the
whole pack of them. ‘Why,’ he wonders, ‘was it so difficult to like anyone for any length of time, let alone love them? He
wasn’t sure if he was unable to love because he had no tenderness for himself or because he felt himself to be perfect and
out of reach of compassion. His ex-wife said it was because he was a selfish bastard …’ And in the event, Joseph never climbs
the mountain, never pays attention to his son.

Another Part of the Wood
was first published in 1968 and is set just a couple of years earlier. There is mention of Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration
of independence and Churchill’s funeral and a quote from The Who’s ‘My Generation’. May, who is keen on clothes, dreams of
wearing a coat with Italian seams at the waist, and cream stockings and toffee patent shoes and beige nail varnish. She tells
Lionel they ought to buy a Union Jack to hang over the bed because ‘all the best people, even the Armstrong-Joneses possibly,
pinned Union Jacks up all over the place.’ But all that sixties fashion is happening far away in London. Here, in the wood,
we feel much
closer to the fifties, even to the war. Lionel constantly reminisces about his war experiences, implying that he had a good
war though he was shot in the buttock, while George is obsessed by the Holocaust and has planted all these trees in memory
of lost Jews. (Bainbridge – typically – never explains why George is obsessed with the Holocaust, but has often said in interviews
that
she
was: ‘I think the only reason I ever wrote at all was because of being taken as a child to see the Holocaust newsreels. And
such was the shock of that, I was always mentioning the Jews, because I had pictures in my head all the time.’)

The novel explores a very sixties preoccupation: the breakdown of family values and the loss of love. Lionel believes in love,
but he has a peculiar way of expressing it, whispering dirty stories about Lalla Rookh to his wife instead of actually doing
anything. Joseph spouts about universal love for all mankind but can’t be bothered with individuals, and poor Roland, Kidney
and Dotty, who hope to be loved by him, are doomed to disappointment. Meanwhile, Balfour, who for all his funny turns seems
to be the voice of common sense, reflects that, whereas his family was poor and his father ‘a right yob’, at least there was
a sense of loyalty, of sticking together. ‘But somewhere along the line Joseph and Dotty and the rest of them, old George
too, had cut themselves free from that sort of thing, gone out on a limb. They didn’t really feel they belonged to anyone
any more.’

Another Part of the Wood
is officially Bainbridge’s second novel after
A Weekend with Claude
(1967), though she had already written
Harriet Said
, which was not published until 1972 when she switched publishers from Hutchinson to Duckworth. At this stage she was an ex-actress
in her mid-thirties, divorced with two children, living in a flat in Hampstead and writing at night when the children were
in bed.
Another Part of the Wood
– like all her novels – was respectfully reviewed (she says she has never had a bad review in her life), but she did not
achieve any sort of fame until
The Dressmaker
and
The Bottle Factory Outing
in the 1970s. Her publisher Colin Haycraft of Duckworth insisted she write a novel a year, but by 1979 she
wanted a break, so he told her to revise
Another Part of the Wood
for republication. Her revisions mainly consisted of cutting out adjectives.

It was Haycraft who taught Bainbridge to pare her prose to the bone, and she has followed his advice ever since. Her first
drafts are often ten times longer than the published version but then she cuts and cuts until she is satisfied there is no
unnecessary word. Sometimes, I think, she overdoes it and cuts words or sentences that the reader actually needs for understanding,
but Bainbridge would rather the reader was puzzled than bored – she hates the idea of spelling anything out. That is why her
novels are always so short, leading to the common misapprehension that they are slight. They are far from slight, they are
huge
, but they read at such a breakneck pace it is almost impossible to pick up all the clues and jokes and nuances first time
round.
Another Part of the Wood
, like any Bainbridge novel, repays double reading – once, quickly, to resolve the dreadful suspense, and then again, slowly,
to enjoy its sly, rich subtlety.

Lynn Barber

For Lilly and Cecil Todes

1

Balfour, unbearably shy, was waiting for them.

He sat on the gate hunching his shoulders, squinting up into the sunlight as the open car came round the corner and went too
fast over the bridge. He watched the car’s approach with a fixed smile – too wide, too foolish – listening with eyelids fluttering
to the optimistic voice of P. J. Proby loud above the noise of the engine.

George MacFarley had told him to meet the visitors. ‘You meet them and I’ll make tea,’ he had promised. ‘Right you are,’ Balfour
had agreed, and half ran, half walked, down the track to the entrance of the woods, leaving George towering outside the door
of the Big House, his scarf wound about his throat, his melancholy eyes regarding the forest below him. The Big House was
merely one large room with a kitchen built on at the back and a bedroom at the side. Nailed to that was another room, very
small, furnished with two bunk beds and a hanging lamp. This was George’s bedroom, where he kept his drawing board, his set-square,
some hammers, an axe and two spades. His saw, always greased after use, hung in a sack behind the door. Pinned to the wooden
wall beside the bunks was a plan of the woods which George had drawn showing the positioning of the huts and the various species
of trees. In the bottom corner were printed the words ‘Plan of Nant MacFarley Camp’ and then, modestly small, ‘George David
MacFarley, Flintshire.’ The name Nant MacFarley Camp wasn’t always used. George’s mother referred to the estate as the Family
Resting Ground, the haven to which they could retreat when the demands of city life became overwhelming. Most weekends Balfour
accompanied the MacFarleys to the Resting Ground – returning to his factory bench on a Monday morning in a state of
exhaustion. When there weren’t any dead trees to be felled and sawn into logs, there were living ones to be inspected and
new ones to be planted. There was drainage to improve and space to be cleared, chemicals to be dug into the soil and fungi
to be torn out, paths to be laid, steps to be cut, hinges to be oiled, window frames to be examined for warping. A porch was
planned for the entrance of the Big House. Another shed would be erected on the other side of the stream to hold the increasing
stores: fluorides and chlorine, acids and caustics, sulphur dioxide, cyanide, methyl alcohol, strychnine, carbon bisulphide,
paraffin, Calor gas, petroleum, turpentine – the list was as endless as the work to be done. Under the pampered trees and
the curving sky the MacFarleys toiled without ceasing. Balfour called it the Labour Camp. Nevertheless he had arranged to
spend his summer holiday, his fourteen days away from the factory, at the Camp. Mr and Mrs MacFarley wouldn’t be there; they
had gone abroad. But Balfour had discovered on arrival that he wasn’t going to be alone with George. George had invited friends
– a man with a beard called Joseph and somebody named Kidney. What was worse, Joseph had apparently taken it upon himself
to ask two other people to stay – people whom George had never met. George said that very possibly Joseph would also bring
a woman. He usually did. Balfour could tell that George was none too pleased about the arrangements, though he didn’t say
much. George never said much.

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