...[an] astonishing biography ... King is able to sort through these claims and others without deflating their emotional truth ... His language is richer, his understanding more acute. He speaks Beryl natively ... You have to laugh, or you’ll cry. The best of Bainbridge’s fiction — and this marvelous biography — invites us to do both.
...[a] sympathetic, even-handed and illuminating account of her life ... As its subtitle makes clear, this biography is about love. I’d have liked more on the novels – but there was so much else to untangle ... The biography’s most fascinating revelation is about Bainbridge’s relationship with her publishers Colin and Anna Haycraft.
King has some sifting to do in the matter of truth versus perception in Bainbridge’s life. This doesn’t altogether explain the heft of this bloated tome, all the more surprising when you think of the stiletto-sharp leanness of Bainbridge’s own prose ... King goes into far too much detail about these lovers, even given that many of them made their way, transmogrified, into the fiction. Without being merely gossipy or racy, this is an enjoyable read, and the account of Bainbridge’s predicament as a gifted, unusual woman negotiating the 20th century amounts to fascinating social history. Where King falls puzzlingly short is that the fiction itself is given cursory attention.
King’s vivid biography reveals the interplay between remembering and inventing in her work ... King, who worked as Bainbridge’s assistant throughout the last 23 years of her life, weaves a gripping narrative from the ups and downs of her entanglements with men ... Among the thought-provoking connections to emerge from this rewarding biography is the association between Bainbridge’s self?dramatisation and the steady discipline of her creativity.
King often seems more exasperated than awed by his subject, and he emends with relish ... He lacks anything like his subject’s 'impressive concision,' but he does succeed in offering a vivid and detailed — and often harrowing — story.