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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"This masterly novel by the great English author Margaret Drabble is beautifully served by Anna Bentinck's low-key and sensitive performance, which permits the book's language and meaning to shine.... When needed, Bentinck gives unique voices to different characters, but it's mostly her rhythm, pacing, and audible love of the book that make her performance glow." ( AudioFile)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sara
  • Out In The Wild Blue Yonder
  • 03-22-17

Life Observed By An Exceptional Writer

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.

33 of 38 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Like a piano piece that evokes sentiments

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!

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Work of Genius

This is a magical book, its magic rising from the genius of Margaret Drabble. Here she addresses the event that dares not speak its name in the trash heap of American culture--death. This is not a book for everyone: it's literature, with a rich vocabulary and numerous references to other writers, times, books, music, and art. Nothing much happens by way of plot, but the characters are complex, rich, and deeply drawn. And the portrayal of the ending of days, for the individual and the planet itself, is incomparable in its interweaving. A book for grownups, flawlessly narrated in just the right voice, an experience of the novel not to be missed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Thoughtful, Helpful, Entertaining

I loved this book. The perfect read for those of us over 60. Forces one to think dark thoughts we like to avoid.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The Dark Flood Rises

Dame Drabble's work is a rare work of serious literature. She successfully wove narrative, history, and the mute subject of the gradual decline into death. I was often so moved by her unblinking descriptions of the indifference of existence that I had to place the book down and process emotions I had pushed away so deeply. She unflinchingly informs us that our sensibilities and connections to loved ones is so tenuous, but not without loving-kindness, concern, and humor. It has been a long time since I have read a book of such gravitas yet rendered like finding a cache of letters from one's grandparents.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautifully written; wonderfully performed

A beautiful meditation on aging, this book weaves the stories of several characters during the last years of their lives, and the many different ways they cope with aging and the thought of dying. The book is not for everyone (there is very little plot and the theme may be seen as depressing by some), but it is a gem in my opinion. Beautiful prose and wonder ful performance brought each character to life. I loved it all the way through!

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Very well written and insightful

This book delves into aging and death. Not the most cheerful book bei so well written. Good for a group to read together.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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View of Aging?

Narrator good; story dark, depressing; not a view of aging that projects hope or fulfillment.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • robin
  • United States
  • 01-03-18

A gentle telling

Of a aging woman and her life and relationships. The story is simple and relatable and the narration matches so well. I think this book will appeal to women over 55. I don’t usually make an age recommendation, but it seems appropriate here.