The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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A reconnaissance at midlife

Noel Grima Sunday, 25 September 2022, 09:55 Last update: about 13 months ago

The Middle Ground. Author: Margaret Drabble. Publisher: Penguin Books / 1981. Pages: 270pp

Margaret Drabble (full name Dame Margaret Drabble, Lady Holroyd) is one of the foremost English writers of novels who has charted the skilfully modulated variations on the theme of a girl's development toward maturity through her experiences of love, marriage and motherhood, apart from professional development.

Her early novels included A Summer Bird-Cage (1962) about a woman unsure of her life's direction after dropping out of graduate school and The Millstone (1965), the story of a woman who eventually sees her illegitimate child as both a burden and a blessing.

She won the E. M. Forster Award for The Needle's Eye (1972) which explores questions of religion and morality.

Her trilogy comprising The Radiant Way (1987), A Natural Curiosity (1989) and The Gates of Ivory (1991) follows the lives of three women who met at Cambridge during the 1950s.

She won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize for The Millstone in 1966 and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1967 for Jerusalem the Golden. She wrote in the tradition of such authors as George Eliot, Henry James and Arnold Bennett.

One can also read her novels as a sort of running social commentary on the successive phases of British life. The book being reviewed can thus be seen as a commentary on the Margaret Thatcher years of conflicts with the trade unions.

Kate suddenly finds herself in her 40s. Relentlessly good-natured, surprisingly successful, basking in the affection of her children and friends and untidily enveloped in the clutter of her overflowing house, she is forced to make a reconnaissance of the middle ground of her life.

This becomes the late 20th century equivalent of Dickens and Victorian London.


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