(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

An Awfully Big Adventure is one of Bainbridge’s best-known novels. A film adaptation of the book, directed by Mike Newell and starring Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, and Georgina Cates, was released in 1995. Bainbridge used her own experiences as a young assistant stage manager in a local Liverpool repertory theater as the backdrop for the story of Stella, a troubled teenager who affects each of the other members of the troupe without realizing it.

The setting of the novel is grim; lower-class life in Liverpool after World War II is depicted as gritty and hard. Stella lives with her uncle and her uncle’s girlfriend, who do their best to care for the young woman who was abandoned by her wild mother some sixteen years earlier. Uncle Vernon wants to save Stella from the fate of so many young women who find themselves working in factories or restaurants when they leave school, and he calls in many favors to secure her a spot at a repertory theater.

The book opens by dropping readers into a scene that they will not understand until much later in the book. Clearly, something is very wrong; Meredith Potter, the troupe director, finds a girl in the props room, a girl who turns out to be the story’s protagonist, Stella. After a brief but angry encounter, Stella runs from the theater, taking refuge in a phone booth outside.

The novel then flashes back to the story of Stella’s first day at the theater and follows through...

(The entire section is 453 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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