Review: Bedford Park by Bryan Appleyard


Sunday Times journalist (and occasional Dabbler) Bryan Appleyard has a new novel out, exclusively as an eBook. Nige enjoys the tale of the ‘mad, enchanted dream suburb’ of Bedford Park…

First, of course, I must declare an interest: Appleyard and I go way back – two score years and more, man and boy. But I can declare, hand on heart, that if Bedford Park had come my way anonymously or from any other source, I would have hugely enjoyed it. It is, among other things, a great read – and one that doesn’t leave you (me anyway) with that let-down, so-what feeling one gets at the end of so much contemporary fiction. Bedford Park, though, is only contemporary in the sense of having been written now. It is a novel of the ‘Edwardian’ era, that high point of English, of European, of western culture, before the continent stumbled into a war that destroyed all the brightest hopes of civilisation – and it inhabits that period so completely that it could almost have been written then.

I share Appleyard’s fascination with this lost golden age and its bright stars, so I was delighted to find many of them in the pages of his novel. Here are Yeats and Maud Gonne, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, the monstrous Frank Harris, the great journalist William Stead. And here is the mad, enchanted dream suburb of Bedford Park in West London, where these figures come and go – and beyond it the great Metropolis, the World City of its age, London, where the modern world is taking shape at bewildering speed, in bewildering forms. And, beyond that, the novel ranges as far as Chicago, and out to sea on a great ocean liner…

But (as the name suggests) the heart of Bedford Park is in that strange, hilarious suburb, that would-be Earthly Paradise of artists and intellectuals, idealists and lovers of beauty – the Saffron Park of Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. Chesterton does not appear in person in the novel (though the ‘hero’, Calhoun Kidd, takes his name from a Chesterton story) – but his genial spirit suffuses the entire venture. It is written with gusto, with brio – you could almost call it a romp – and it is in parts very funny; it had me laughing aloud many times. Bedford Park is also packed with well hidden allusions and quotations (by no means all of them Edwardian), and that too is part of the fun.

For myself, I could have done without the murder mystery element in the plot, but I’m probably an atypical reader in not being too fussed about narrative; there was already enough there for me in the great succession of set pieces featuring a cast of extraordinary people, some invented, some historical, some both. Bedford Park is a lively, convincing and entertaining portrait of a time and a place, created in the spirit of that time and place. Despite the darkness of some of its content, it is actually cheering – and of how much contemporary fiction can you say that? Chesterton himself would, I think, approve.

Bedford Park is available as an eBook for £3.99 from Amazon.
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About Author Profile: Nige

Cravat-Wearer of the Year Nige, who, like Mr Kenneth Horne, prefers to remain anonymous, is a founder blogger of The Dabbler and has been a co-blogger on the Bryan Appleyard Thought Experiments blog. He is the sole blogger on Nigeness, and (for now) a wholly owned subsidiary of NigeCorp. His principal aim is to share various of life's pleasures.

10 thoughts on “Review: Bedford Park by Bryan Appleyard

  1. Worm
    April 17, 2013 at 09:24

    I would buy this book immediately – if I only had one of those new fangled kindle things. I’ll have to make do with imagining it instead. I shall imagine that there is at least one disturbingly baroque sex scene in every chapter, and that there are lots of people shooting each other with laser guns.

      April 17, 2013 at 13:13

      You can download the Kindle app free to most devices. I have one on my pc and phone.

      But anyway, your version sounds great, Worm. Please write it.

        April 17, 2013 at 13:38

        Or read in Amazon’s cloud reader.

    April 17, 2013 at 10:16

    Close, Worm – but not quite…

    April 17, 2013 at 11:30

    Looking forward to the eRead, I hope that there are at least four alien abductions and the appearance of Monica Bellucci in the final scene wearing bespoke cowboy boots.

    I wonder, has Bryan followed Fellowes.

    April 17, 2013 at 12:00

    Sounds a great read. Haven’t attempted an e-read yet. Maybe this will be the first. Though I’d love a good old paper copy in my hands and on my shelf.

      ian russell
      April 17, 2013 at 22:02

      You should try it, I’m completely converted. There’s even a free sample (from Mr. A’s novel) via Amazon. What’s to lose?

    April 17, 2013 at 13:44

    Thanks, Nige, and there should be a paperback eventually in which there will be lurid sex scenes AND laser guns.

    April 17, 2013 at 13:46

    Good – I had a feeling something was missing…

    Jeff Guinn
    April 18, 2013 at 06:01

    Thankfully, since this one is actually available to us Yanks, it is now on my iPad.

    (As is Flashman in the Great Game. Well, will be, since it won’t be available for another couple weeks. Inexplicably, most of the Flashmans [Flashmen?] can’t be had for love or money over here. Well, not digitally, anyway.

    Must. Close. Amazon. Now.)

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