The Seven Sistersby Margaret Drabble
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 Londonand 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
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 Londonand 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.
“A provocative and hugely entertaining novel.”
–Globe and Mail
“A demanding, risk-taking and rewarding masterpiece.”
“Margaret Drabble is a writer of shining wit and splendid seriousness.”
“Drabble combines the humanity of Alice Munro and the intelligence of Margaret Atwood with her own crystalline wit.”
“The Radiant Way, with its brave perceptivity and bite, stands as a modern Middlemarch, an ultimately inspiring achievement.”
“A perceptive, contemporary novel.…Drabble has a dry wit and unflinching eye for the ridiculous.…”
“Splendid.…The Radiant Way leaves us profoundly depressed by the ailing condition of England and yet exhilarated by Drabble’s considerable accomplishment in this richly conceived novel.”
Meet the Author
Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield, England, in 1939, and studied English at Cambridge University. Her novels include The Radiant Way, A Natural Curiosity, The Gates of Ivory, The Witch of Exmoor, The Peppered Moth, and, most recently, The Seven Sisters. Among her non-fiction works are Arnold Bennett: A Biography, A Writer's Britain, and Angus Wilson: A Biography. She is also the editor of The Oxford Companion to English Literature.
Margaret Drabble has three children and is married to the biographer Michael Holroyd. She lives in London, England.
- London, England
- Date of Birth:
- June 5, 1939
- Place of Birth:
- Sheffield, England
- Cambridge University
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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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