The Seven Sisters, By Margaret Drabble
The second lives club
Sunday 06 November 2011
How successful would Margaret Drabble's publishing career be if she started out today?
The doyenne of the "Hampstead dinner party" novel has become unfashionable, and this 2002 novel does not suggest that she was interested in reinventing herself.
Which is possibly why it works so beautifully. Drabble takes her time, building up the inconsequentialities of her middle-aged heroine's quiet life, now that she has divorced her husband and her three daughters are grown up. In among the seemingly unimportant detail about local shops, people buying for large dinner parties (the novel is set in Ladbroke Grove, west London, not Hampstead, but its characters still give dinner parties) and the younger women at the health club, Drabble carves out a picture of a woman facing the loneliness of her final years in some confusion. Is she sorry for herself; bitter that her husband had an affair and remarried? Or is she happy to have escaped the confines of a dull relationship and established herself in her own flat, her own territory? She's not sure.
Drabble possesses the rare and wonderful gift of making her characters seem utterly real. There's a painful honesty in this tale of a woman who heads off to Italy with female friends old and new, an admission of failure and a life not lived as fully as it should have been. And yet, for all that, it is not bleak. Stoicism is not fashionable either, but when we meet it we wonder why it is so undervalued.
Arts & Ents blogs
Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch 'first sexy Holmes', says Mark Gatiss
Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
Jessica Alba interview: From Hollywood superwoman to household product CEO
Captain Phillips actor Barkhad Abdi struggles financially despite Oscar nomination
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
- 3 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 4 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
- 5 Livr: A social network only for drunk people