PRAISE FOR THE SEVEN SISTERS
"Reading a Margaret Drabble novel has always been like cozying up with a cup of hot tea by a gas fire with a dull English winter rain misting the window, and contemplating the story of one's own life."-The New York Times
When circumstances compel her to start over late in her life, Candida Wilton moves from a beautiful Georgian house in lovely Suffolk to a two-room, walk-up flat in a run-down building in central London--and begins to pour her soul into a diary. Candida is not exactly destitute. So, is the move perversity, she wonders, a survival test, or is she punishing herself? How will she adjust to this shabby, menacing, but curiously appealing city? What can happen, at her age, to change her life?
In a voice that is pitch-perfect, Candida describes her health club, her social circle, and her attempts at risk-taking in her new life. She begins friendships of sorts with other women-widowed, divorced, never married, women straddled between generations. And then there is a surprise pension-fund windfall . . .
A beautifully rendered story, this is Margaret Drabble at her novelistic best.
Recently dumped for a younger woman by husband Andrew, Candida Wilton is angry, estranged from her three daughters, and, as an abandoned housewife with no skills or prospects, disinclined to be patronized by overbearing Suffolk neighbors like Sally. She moves to a shabby section of London and begins studying The Aeneid at an adult education center; when it’s shut down, she warily joins the trendy health club that replaces it. The first half, "Her Diary," offers Candida’s bitter but often sharply funny observations of her smug ex, her status-seeking offspring, health-club members, and other residents of the new, multicultural London. Readers may agree when she writes, "What a mean, self-righteous, self-pitying voice is mine," but this long, grim opening section skillfully sets up "Italian Journey," the hesitantly happy description of a trip taken by newly affluent Candida (an unexpected pension windfall) to Tunis and Naples. She’s following in Aeneas’s footsteps under the guidance of the elderly Mrs. Jerrold, who taught the defunct Aeneid class. Other companions include childhood chum Julia, a bestselling novelist past her commercial prime; cheerfully hedonistic Cynthia, married to a wealthy gay art-dealer; and the loathsome Sally. All seven are no longer young, each wondering what Julia bluntly asks: "So what is the point of us?" Candida: "The solution to the problem is death." Part Three suggests that this may be the author’s final answer, though her middle daughter angrily refutes many of Candida’s previous assertions. Almosteverything we thought we knew gets upended in Part Four, where Candida has built a new life and offers cautious hope for her future.
Tough-minded, uncompromising, and not always a lot of fun. But Drabble’s longtime admirers will cheer to see the author of The Needle’s Eye and The Ice Age once again following her muse into uncomfortable places.
MARGARET DRABBLE is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth, and The Needle's Eye, among other novels. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008.
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Loved the book and wished it would have lasted longer. Intelligent and well written. A slightly unusual story about a middle aged divorcee who moves to London to restart her life. It is interesting how subtly Drabble changes the story, the voice, and development of Candida Wiltons character over time and throughout the book. Highly recommend. May seem slow at first but then the rhythm of the story catches on and you become interested in finding out if Candida succeeds in starting a new life.
Too many terms that i did not know or understand most of which werent even in the dictionary