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.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 teaser trailer sees Katniss lead rebellion against the Capitol
The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace