According to Queeney by Beryl Bainbridge is another sales find (yay! booksales!), a fictionalised “biography” of Samuel Johnson’s last 20 years, especially focusing on his relationship with the Thrales, and his infatuation with Mrs Thrale. The writer of the amazon synopsis labours under the misapprehension that Queeney – daughter of Mr and Mrs Thrale – is the narrator of the book, which is blatant nonsense. The narration is certainly centered around her, as she is present at a majority of the events described, but it is in the third person and we also get insights into things she could not possibly have seen or known. However, each section of the book is prefaced, so to say, by a letter written by Queeney some years after Johnson’s death, in response to promptings by one of his biographers. From these we learn that her memories are not pleasant to her, and this colours our interpretation of the rest of the narrative.
I notice that the reviewers have found the book filled with “humour and wit” and such like, I can’t say I saw that, it certainly didn’t make me laugh out loud, though I did, perhaps, smile occasionally. In any case it is a fascinating portrait of a fascinating man (not the least fascinating thing about him being the influence he excerted over his friends and acquaintances).