Anything for A Quiet Life: this reissue of a novel first published in 1976 was written before Bainbridge's recent turn to historical fiction, and reworks the semi-autobiographical terrain familiar from her early novels, a post-war lower-middle-class setting characterised by meanness, frustration and emotional evasion.
The respectable facade of Alan's family conceals a mounting range of quirks and dysfunctions. His father chafes and rages under obscure financial humiliations. His younger sister, Madge, is having secret meetings with a German POW. His mother is making regular trips into the night, to pursue her own illicit pleasures in an empty railway station. Their desperation leaks from between the lines of Bainbridge's elliptical prose, or emanates from the grotesqueries of telling period detail--from liberty-bodices, fly-paper, the "swollen crust" of a meat pie, the "small scab" kept unhealed upon Alan's father's head from its repeated collision with the mantelpiece in the family's cramped and over-furnished kitchen. The drive is towards tragedy; but even tragedy strikes, in this understated world, with deadening calm, and via domestic metaphor. Alan's unleashing of fatal passions is accompanied by his breaking of the family clock. The resulting silence is both real and symbolic, and pursues him into his adult life. Like many Bainbridge novels, this one finally compels you to return to its start, to reread opening events in the light of a gained painful knowledge.--Sarah Waters