A Summer Bird-Cage [NOOK Book]

Overview

Attractive and witty, Sarah has just graduated from Oxford and started a new job at the BBC. As she immerses herself in the excitement of 1960s London, her beautiful older sister, Louise, marries the famous, though admittedly difficult, novelist Stephen Halifax. Louise initially revels in the newfound wealth and glamor that her marriage affords her, but soon she finds her relationship the subject of bitter gossip and scathing tabloid headlines. Despite the distance that has always existed between the two sisters,...
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A Summer Bird-Cage

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Overview

Attractive and witty, Sarah has just graduated from Oxford and started a new job at the BBC. As she immerses herself in the excitement of 1960s London, her beautiful older sister, Louise, marries the famous, though admittedly difficult, novelist Stephen Halifax. Louise initially revels in the newfound wealth and glamor that her marriage affords her, but soon she finds her relationship the subject of bitter gossip and scathing tabloid headlines. Despite the distance that has always existed between the two sisters, Sarah finds herself bound to Louise as she faces the scrutiny of London society and the two begin to forge a connection they had previously thought impossible. With Margaret Drabble’s signature eye for the subtleties and intricacies of everyday life, A Summer Bird-Cage is captivating, a dazzling, resonant portrait of two young women struggling to find their footing in a city as fickle as it is intoxicating.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544285200
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 214
  • Sales rank: 378,933
  • File size: 542 KB

Meet the Author

Margaret Drabble

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.

Biography

With her shrewd, mannered descriptions and dialogue, Drabble can say a lot. Take this line from The Witch of Exmoor: "He bites his nails between grapes, and avoids eye contact. A mother -- but perhaps not his -- would note that he is too thin." The British author, who has been writing surprising and clever novels for some 40 years, tends to remain focused on female protagonists; but she is inventive when it comes to narration, sometimes where you least expect it. The Witch of Exmoor, for example, has a wry, omniscient narrator who begins with a godlike, "Begin on a midsummer evening. Let them have everything that is pleasant." In 2002's The Seven Sisters, the first section of the book is the main character's (often self-critical) computer diary, and unexpected shifts in perspective follow.

Her variations in narrative structure and her injection of political and social commentary into her works makes Drabble a particularly challenging and interesting writer. Her return to fiction after a seven-year gap, 1987's The Radiant Way, became a trilogy (completed by A Natural Curiosity and Gates of Ivory) that veered slightly into international adventure territory. Ivory, for example, flips between psychiatrist Liz Headleand (one of the three women first featured in The Radiant Way) and the writer friend for whom she is searching, a man who has gone to Cambodia for research. Unfortunately, several of Drabble's early and highly praised novels (including the first two books of the aforementioned trilogy) are out of print in the U.S. It's a shame, because those books are the ones that established Drabble as an important writer, and are the templates for Drabble's independent, intelligent heroines on the road to self-discovery.

A few critics who have been admirers of Drabble's since she began writing in the 1960s have gone sour on the author in her later years. On the release of The Witches of Exmoor, a Toronto Sun critic wrote, "I am so sad and sorry to report that Margaret Drabble, once one of the best novelists on earth, is past her best," calling the novel a "rehash." Of 2002's The Seven Sisters, the story of middle-aged divorcee Candida Wilton's experiences as a newly single woman, a critic for Britain's Observer lamented the book's unconventional and somewhat cagey approach toward the end. "Altogether, Candida is alive enough that the novel's truncations ache like phantom limbs," the critic wrote. "The realised heroines of Drabble's magnificent books from the 1960s or 1970s would say to Candida, Tell me what it is like to be you."

Ultimately, part of the push and shove over Drabble's work comes down to a tension between literary invention and reader satisfaction; she has often been criticized for not caring enough about her characters to make them engaging. The New York Times wrote of The Gates of Ivory, "It's about politics and literature, terrorism and atrocities, love and life and death.... But ideas do not make a novel. Characters do. And we need to care about them, deeply." However, consider The Nation's take: "What I love about this novel is what I love about the best of Drabble's works -- it's rich and complex and allusive and textured and intertextual and takes on the big questions: life and art, representation and responsibility, the possibility of political action, the question of human nature. It's a novel of ideas at a time when most fiction seems deliberately lobotomized."

Good To Know

Possession author A. S. Byatt is Drabble's older sister. There was too much competition," Byatt says about her childhood relationship with her sister. "We didn't get on."

Drabble was an actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company after she graduated from college, and was an understudy for Vanessa Redgrave; she married fellow RSC actor Clive Swift in 1960. The two divorced in 1975, and Drabble later married biographer Michael Holroyd.

Also a scholarly writer of biography and nonfiction, Drabble has written several forewords to editions of Jane Austen's work as well as lives of novelists Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson. The nonfiction includes a 1990 analysis and critique of property law, Safe as Houses.

Drabble has also written several plays including Laura, Isadora, and Bird of Paradise. She adapted her novel The Millstone as the 1969 film A Touch of Love.

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

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 24, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Perhaps the rare and simple pleasure of being seen for what one

    Perhaps the rare and simple pleasure of being seen for what one is, compensates for the misery of being it.

    - Margaret Drabble, A Summer Birdcage

    A Summer Birdcage was published in 1963 by a 24 year-old Margaret Drabble about things that would concern a 24 year-old middle-class woman. Accordingly, the story is written in first person, drawing the reader into the protagonist’s mind as she explores the psychology of relationships, love, marriage, children and life purpose. The sixties is not a decade I generally read in and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The truly vintage cover, the pocket for the old-school library date due card, the sepia-toned pages, the heavy serif font, these things both put me off and drew me in. I never thought I’d find that not much has changed in the past 50 years.

    The book opens with the protagonist, Sarah, returning home to England from a post-college stint in Paris. Her older sister, Louise, a beautiful yet mysterious and somewhat cruel woman of 24 is suddenly marrying. And so it goes. The sisters have a distant relationship due to Louise’s adolescent rejection of Sarah, but for brief flashes of tender connection. Sarah does not know why Louise is marrying a neurotic man no one can stand. She does not know what will happen with the man she loves, or if she will ever get married. She does not know what to do with her life though she does dream of writing a novel like Kingsley Amis. The story is full of existential observations through the lens of an intelligent thinker establishing her adulthood in a new era: the days are over, thank God, when a woman justifies her existence by marrying.

    The author helped me to become Sarah. She became I. As one, we searched for answers about the underlying motivations of others and self. I found A Summer Birdcage to be unusually relatable. In my early twenties, I was like Sarah in many ways. A young privileged white woman, graduated from college with a “first,” single for the time being, traveling abroad and returning home to fulfill familial obligations although the real reason was that she felt it time to get started with “real life,” only to be faced with the freeing yet stifling notion that the world waited at her feet and she still didn’t know what the hell to do next. So Sarah and I, we followed the days, accepting invitations we didn’t really want to take, working at a job because it was there, staying out late with men we didn’t love, drinking to get drunk because it felt good to melt our thoughts away, and wrestling with superficial self-confidence all the while remaining painfully self-aware.

    I may be too close to the action to know whether this book is globally fascinating, or just fascinating to me. But I do know that Margaret Drabble left me wanting more. My only complaint was that the story wasn’t longer. I want to know what happens next to Sarah and her sister. Though I suppose it could be my own answers that I’m after.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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