The Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters

2.5 2
by Margaret Drabble
     
 

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Candida Wilton—a woman recently betrayed, rejected, divorced, and alienated from her three grown daughters—moves from a beautiful Georgian house in lovely Suffolk to a two-room walk-up flat in a run-down building in central London. Candida is not exactly destitute. So, is the move perversity, she wonders, a survival test, or is she punishing herself? How… See more details below

Overview

Candida Wilton—a woman recently betrayed, rejected, divorced, and alienated from her three grown daughters—moves from a beautiful Georgian house in lovely Suffolk to a two-room walk-up flat in a run-down building in central London. 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? And yet, as she climbs the dingy communal staircase with her suitcases, she feels both nervous and exhilarated.
There is a relationship with a computer to which she now confides her past and her present. And friendships of sorts with other women—widows, divorced, never married, women straddled between generations. And then Candida's surprise inheritance . . .
A beautifully rendered story, this is Margaret Drabble at her novelistic best.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Engaging the emotions and the intellect simultaneously and possessed of a rare technical ease, "The Seven Sisters" is an unusually satisfying novel.
Stephanie Foote
Recently divorced from her perfect husband and estranged from her three adult daughters, Candida Wilton moves away from the English countryside to a London flat. Drabble's fourth novel begins as Candida's diary and concentrates on those moments in which Candida experiments with different ways to tell the story of her life. A master of quirky, richly drawn characters, Drabble is attuned to people on the brink of unexpected change, and Candida, somewhat tentative at the beginning of the novel, ultimately becomes a seductive and confident narrator. Echoing much of Drabble's fiction, this novel tells us that narrative anchors and shapes people's lives, and it reminds us that reading is always an act of self-creation.
Recently divorced from her perfect husband and estranged from her three adult daughters, Candida Wilton moves away from the English countryside to a London flat. Drabble's fourth novel begins as Candida's diary and concentrates on those moments in which Candida experiments with different ways to tell the story of her life. A master of quirky, richly drawn characters, Drabble is attuned to people on the brink of unexpected change, and Candida, somewhat tentative at the beginning of the novel, ultimately becomes a seductive and confident narrator. Echoing much of Drabble's fiction, this novel tells us that narrative anchors and shapes people's lives, and it reminds us that reading is always an act of self-creation. Author—Stephanie Foote
Publishers Weekly
The narrator of Drabble's teasingly clever new novel, like several of her fictional predecessors (in The Witch of Endor and The Peppered Moth) is a lonely, middle-aged woman disillusioned with her life and wary about her future. Betrayed and divorced by her husband, the smug headmaster of a school in Suffolk, and estranged from her three grown daughters, Candida Wilton moves to a flat in a rundown, slightly dangerous London neighborhood. To fill her days, she takes a class in Virgil, until the adult-ed building is taken over by a health club, which she joins for lack of anything better to do. The first section of the narrative is Candida's computer diary, in which she tries to make sense of the circumstances that have led her to this narrow place in her life, and her tentative efforts to reach out and make new friends. Though she apologizes for "the bleating, whining, resentful, martyred tone I seem to have adopted," Candida's account has the fresh veracity of someone who's a newcomer to London and to the state of being single. While Drabble paints her as sexually cold and maternally reserved, given to French phrases and snobbish assessments, Candida is a character the reader grudgingly admires as she tries to maintain hope that she can turn her life around. Then a small miracle occurs. A financial windfall allows her to take some of her fellow Virgil aficionados and two old friends on a trip to Tunis and Sicily, following the footsteps of Aeneas. Candida learns more about her companions as the trip progresses and gains some insights into her own behavior. The narrative takes several surprising turns, throwing the reader as off-center as Candida has become and proving that Candida herself has not been candid. But Drabble has: Candida's evasive account accurately charts the psychological territory of one who is suddenly cast adrift. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Drabble returns with another novel featuring an intelligent woman facing late middle age alone. Like the protagonists of The Peppered Moth and The Witch of Exmoor, Candida Wilton finds herself in a sad predicament partially of her own making. Although the divorce following her headmaster husband's betrayal was shattering, Candida's subsequent estrangement from her daughters has roots in her rather cold personality, and it was wholly her choice to move from her Suffolk home to a seedy section of London. Naturally reserved and more than a little snobbish, she nevertheless struggles to build a new life, recording her progress in a laptop computer diary (in which Candida reveals herself as the least candid of narrators). A sudden change in finances sends Candida to Tunisia and Italy, following the journeys of Virgil's Aeneas in the company of six spiritual "sisters," which leads to unexpected plot twists. The author's clever observations and well-crafted prose move the narrative along and manage to sustain reader interest in, and even arouse sympathy for, a character who describes herself accurately as having "much to be ashamed about." For most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/02.]-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Following The Peppered Moth (2001), a novel based on her mother’s life, Drabble goes even closer to the bone in a tale of late-middle-aged discontent.

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.

From the Publisher
“Enormous in scope and profound in sympathy, it hits every note from exquisitely trivial detail to ludicrous daily comedy to numbing tragedy. Essential reading!”
–Margaret Atwood

“A provocative and hugely entertaining novel.”
Globe and Mail

“A demanding, risk-taking and rewarding masterpiece.”
Maclean’s

“Margaret Drabble is a writer of shining wit and splendid seriousness.”
–Alice Munro

“Drabble combines the humanity of Alice Munro and the intelligence of Margaret Atwood with her own crystalline wit.”
–Sheila Fischman

The Radiant Way, with its brave perceptivity and bite, stands as a modern Middlemarch, an ultimately inspiring achievement.”
Vancouver Province

“A perceptive, contemporary novel.…Drabble has a dry wit and unflinching eye for the ridiculous.…”
Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“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.”
Hamilton Spectator

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780544301320
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/05/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
342,127
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
London, England
Date of Birth:
June 5, 1939
Place of Birth:
Sheffield, England
Education:
Cambridge University

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