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The insatiable passion to know drives virtually all the characters in A Natural Curiosity: Liz, united with her divorced husband to fnd their ...
The insatiable passion to know drives virtually all the characters in A Natural Curiosity: Liz, united with her divorced husband to fnd their friend, Liz's sister Shirley, who learns the truth about their mother's life and death, and Alix, who visits with an imprisoned mass-murder and learns things she doesn't want to know.
“An excellent, artful and acute novel.…Drabble harnesses her journalistic impressions to a novelist’s invention and leaves us in stunned, even cheerful contemplation (God help us) of the meaning of life.”
“[Drabble is] a perennially entertaining and intelligent novelist who can always be relied upon for a provocative as well as a good read.”
“An intriguing page-tuner.…Drabble’s characters are too intelligent to become enmeshed in melodrama. Their voices are vigorous, their actions compelling.…Thoughtful and compassionate.…”
–London Free Press
“Drabble’s characters have lodged themselves in my mind.…The compelling vitality of the characters with their attendant curiosity buoys up the novel”
“Margaret Drabble has defined our times better than any other woman novelist.…The novel stands on its own as a great document of British life at the end of the century.…Energizing.”
“[Drabble] invites us to see beyond the filth and horror of modern life to the world of possibilities in our own lives, where we also have the power to write our own endings.”
–Winnipeg Free Press
“[Drabble’s] talent for observing contemporary Britain – political, social and economic –is as intelligent as ever.…”
“With humour and sympathy, Drabble uses [her characters’] stories to illuminate the social decay in Britain (and by extension all of the West) through a series of powerful images, from serial murder to suicide.”
–Books in Canada
Posted April 20, 2002
Delighted to learn that Margaret Drabble had written a sequel to her fine novel, The Radiant Way, entitled A Natural Curiosity, I tried to acquire a copy as quickly as I could. I reviewed The Radiant Way and so I thought that the seuel might shed some new light on some of the characters and ideas of the first volume or perhaps show up a point I may have missed. In any event, I was eager to read more in the lives of Liz, Alix, and Esther. The diffuse narrative, again set in contemporary (1987) Britain, is entirely realistic. Miss Drabble has changed things around a little; she has changed her focus. A Natural Curiosity is not a political novel , nor is it the Headleand saga, the narrator tells us directly. Rather, it is a 'pathological novel,' 'a psychotic novel.' (yeayy! just what i need) Similar to The Radiant Way, she renders her judgement on modern society. Her point in the sequel is that modern society is sick--psychotic even. And, as a clue to the issue she is probing, the words 'curiosity,' 'the human condition,' 'the human race,' 'normality,' 'human nature,' and 'nature/nurture' abound in the novel. The main question of the novel, alas, is' 'What is normal?' Miss Drabble has changed tack by splitting up the three friends--Liz, Esther, and Alix--and focussing more on the domestic and professional lives of the individuals. It is in those two contexts, primarily, that she considers the 'what-is-normal question. The characters are also trying to find meaning for their lives. A fascinating juxtaposition. 'Who pushes us?' or, as Liz asks herself in sadness, at one point, 'What next...and what is the point of what next?' We meet some new couples: Clive and Susie Enderby, Edward and Janice Enderby, Fanny and Ian Kettle, and the separated parents of Paul Whitmore, the Horror of Harrow Road. What these couples have in common is that they are representative British middle-class couples that Miss Drabble includes both for the sake of plot and for illustration of her point. She portrays the nature of these couples' marital relationships to show the marks that the 1980's have left on the marriage: infidelity, lack of communication, overworked husbands, misery and family disharmony. Those are symptoms of a deeper problem, the 'abnormality is in-built.' Liz is essentially the same person in this novel as she was in the The Radiant Way. She is a successful, busy psychotherapist. But she has lost the companionship of her two close women friends (as she has in The Gates of Ivory). She has become entangled in the fashionable issue of 1987, child sex abuse, taking part in a televised panel discussion and being asked by Lord Rothven, President of the National Child Care Trust, for advice on dealing with a child sex pornography scandal. Her sister, Shirley, runs away after her husband commits suicide. She discovers that she has a third sister, Marcia Campbell, who was born a year before she. The abnormal has touched Liz's life at several points; and, as a result, she considers normality and abnormality in her own way: 'She tried to think of the whole human race, on its quest for its own self and its own destruction.' Alix and Brian have moved to Northam, where they both seem happier. Their marriage has remained a good one. Alix's two main interests are a convicted murderer and an ancient poet. The former, Paul Whitmore, is a friend and subject of inquiry for her and the latter is her employer. As Alix spends time talking to her poet employer and looking through his papers and letters, it seems that the change of work environment has done her good. With her ancient poet, she is contentedly occupied. But, the abnormal has also touched Alix's life in the guise of Paul Whitmore: 'He has come to her by chance, but it is almost as if she had invented him, as an illustration of whatever it is she wishes to discover about human nature.' (a theme to come in GI) She is friend and social worker to him. My impression,Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.