Francesca Stubbs has a very full life. A highly regarded expert on housing for the elderly who is herself getting on in age, she drives restlessly round England.
Amid the professional conferences she attends, she fits in visits to old friends, brings home-cooked dinners to her ex-husband, texts her son, who is grieving over the sudden death of his girlfriend, and drops in on her daughter, a quirky young woman who lives in a floodplain in the West Country.
This dark and glittering novel moves back and forth between an interconnected group of family and friends in England and a seemingly idyllic expat community in the Canary Islands, where we also observe the flow of immigrants from an increasingly war-torn Middle East.
©2017 Margaret Drabble (P)2017 Dreamscape Media, LLC
I love Margaret Drabble's writing and looked forward to the release of this latest title. Then unfortunately I read a terrible review of the book in the Sunday New York Times. The review sounded like an eighth grade book report riddled with plot spoilers and lists of what happens in the form of "and then"....followed by many more "and thens". You know the stuff--simply written I think to prove the reviewer had read the book. It all sounded so dreadful and depressing that I crossed the title off my "to be read" book list thinking I'd skip it. When it was released here on audible I wavered and decided to ignore the review and take the plunge. Gosh I'm really glad that I did.
This book is so thought provoking, so beautifully written, so expansive that I find it difficult to decide just where to start with this review. Filled with the contradictions, the conflicts and the complexity of everyday life the book presents an incredibly wide angled view. Using a web of connected characters Drabble teases apart the thorny topics of life lived, youth, aging and death. She uses the book to look at choices, decisions and random chance--really the vagaries of life. The improbability of how each life changes, develops over time and intertwines with others are key themes. In addition, hard life lessons and concepts of responsibility for ourselves and others are explored.
Just in case this all sounds too heavy handed be aware the book is also filled with beauty, art, color, friendship and family. There are wonderful descriptions of England and of the volcanic beauty of the Canary Islands. I was swept up by the characters, their histories, their thoughts and experiences. Drabble does a fantastic job of musing about all these deep concepts through her characters---adeptly using their actions and thoughts as vehicles. To me, the book wasn't preachy or lecturing. There are no quick and easy answers offered.
This to me is fiction at its best. Thoughtful, intelligent and written by a master. Simply fantastic and not to be missed. Be sure to put your thinking cap on first though--Drabble expects the reader to do a good bit of the work here. Trust me it's worth it. Extraordinary and superb.
As long as I have my Audible, I'm content.
I'm drawn to books with older protagonists lately, so when I saw this, I had to listen. While it is all about death and dying, it is not at all depressing. Poignant at times, but not gloomy. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I think listening makes that harder, but that didn't really matter so much. The main character of the book was really death and the many ways in which people think about it, fear it, welcome it, prepare for it, etc. I'd never heard of Margaret Drabble before. I'll be checking out more of her books. Narrator was excellent!
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