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.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Video shows what happens when lava is poured onto ice
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
One Direction fans set up crowdfunding page to buy the band after Zayn Malik quits
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC suspension
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First