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The Pure Gold Baby Hardcover – 7 Nov 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 291 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; 1st edition (7 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782111093
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782111092
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 246,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Extraordinary and intriguing (SADIE JONES author of The Outcast)

The Pure Gold Baby is an unexpected gift from a great author. How do we treat the child who walks among us in a different way than most? In Margaret Drabble's hands the answer is with a depth of empathy few master. Fortunately for us, Drabble has spent a lifetime doing just that in exquisitely written prose (ALICE SEBOLD author of The Lovely Bones)

Moving and meditative (MEG WOLITZER New Yorker)

Superb ... a richly complex narrative voice achieves a choric magnificence hardly equalled in her earlier work (Stevie Davies Independent)

Involving and unexpectedly rich . . . a magnificent novel that confirms Drabble's status as a national treasure (Daily Mail)

Subtle . . . The cadences of the prose, the kind of language used, the words that are chosen, echo the passing of the years . . . absorbing (Kirsty Gunn Financial Times)

Its prose has an almost folkloric quality . . . Characters, plotlines and themes swirl and proliferate (Alex Clark Observer)

Drabble's intelligence and compassion make it a hugely rewarding read (Mail on Sunday)

A unique and profoundly stirring book (Elizabeth Day Observer)

Written with compassion and bathed in a poignant glow (Stylist)

Her distinctive narrative voice and soaring prose remain electrifying (Spectator)

Achingly wise (Wall Street Journal)

One of the most thought-provoking and intellectually challenging writers around (Financial Times)

The book succeeds as both a social critique and a sensitive view of the agonies and joys of raising disabled children . . . Insightful and wise, The Pure Gold Baby chronicles the deep challenges of parenting under any circumstances - yet it also captures the almost unbearable vulnerability of being human (Boston Globe)

Her [Drabble's] prose is graceful and flowing . . . This is a quiet, contemplative novel . . . a moving testament to love, loyalty, and friendships between women . . . a poignant but ultimately uplifting tale (Independent)

Drabble richly recreates that place and that environment [1960's North London] . . . Contained in the story, in fact, is a history of ideas about the mentally disturbed and the treatment of them. This is a tough assignment, and Drabble's brilliance appears here . . . while it reads very easily and seductively as a naturalistic novel, it slowly builds up a sense of wide horizons that one has never seen in quite the same way before (The Times)

A jigsaw; its ambitious themes of parenthood, innocence, wounded children, anthropology, literature, madness, ageing, illness and love juxtaposed (Jane Shilling Telegraph)

The trick to reading the novel is to go with the flow as Drabble does, gliding into each event, laced with her dry, witty snaps of changing times of what was in the 1950s-'60s and what is now (Sydney Morning Herald)

Moving . . . Thoughtful and provocative, written with the author's customary intelligence and quiet passion (Kirkus)

[A] marvellously dexterous, tartly funny, and commanding novel of moral failings and women's quandaries, brilliantly infusing penetrating social critique with stinging irony as she considers what life makes of us and what we make of life (Booklist, starred review)

The tone is relaxed, even chatty, narrative mixed with reflection and observations on changes in manners and moral . . . What it offers, convincingly, interestingly, and often charmingly, is a picture of a changing world . . . Margaret Drabble has written a novel in which she has resisted the temptation to form it into a pleasing work of art, instead offering a picture of life as one thing after another. Yet it is a version of a good life that she very winningly offers us, a life irradiated by kindness (Scotsman)

This new novel by a tireless chronicler of our times returns to key Drabble themes, her voice as strong and shrewd as ever (i)

Margaret Drabble's new novel radiates the kind of intelligent ability, breadth and wry insight that comes with a lifetime's practice of thinking and writing. Reading it as relaxingly satisfying as sinking into luxury upholstery (Book Oxygen)

Drabble's insightful characterisation and beautifully written prose make this a deeply absorbing read (The Gazette)

A contemplative, moving and compelling portrait of a fiercly devoted mother and her symbolic "pure gold" daughter (The Leader)

Drabble's insightful characterisation and beautigully written prose make it a deeply absorbing read (Aberdeen Evening Express)

Drabble's voice is both commanding and conversational (Sunday Herald)

A London that is rather more quiet and textured than the loud and globalised bankers' capital it has become today, and described perfectly in Drabble's distinctive, finely grained prose (KIRSTY GUNN Scotsman, Books of the Year)

Drabble's writing has the beautiful deep polish of the lid of a Steinway. Her social observations are often uncomfortably spot-on and there are some wonderfully wry asides (Literary Review)

A tender, moving, wonderfully wise portrait of a family (Saga Magazine)

She writes not about exemplary women, but about real ones (New York Review of Books)

Shrewd, considered, many-layered in its almost anthropological examination of a culture and a period, this is a welcome return to the novel form for one of our finest writers (Good Book Guide)

An intelligent book about the way we interpret our inner lives (Culture, Sunday Times)

A novel of themes (Seven, Sunday Telegraph)

A profoundly touching novel (Daily Express)

An excellent thought provoking look at life and motherhood in modern and 20th-century Britain (Bath Life)

Book Description

Margaret Drabble returns with a powerful novel of unbreakable love, enduring friendships and a society changing forever

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 5 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Spanning a period of fifty years from the 1960s to the present day, Margaret Drabble's latest novel tells the story of Jess Speight, an anthropologist, who becomes pregnant during an affair with a married professor. The professor hastily leaves the scene and Jess becomes a single mother; she puts her career on hold, sets up home in North London, and manages to get by working as a freelance writer: "She wrote quickly, easily, at an academic or popular level. She became an armchair, study-bound, library-dependent anthropologist." When Jess's baby, Anna, is born, the pure gold baby of the title, she is a peaceful, contented child, ready to smile at everyone and everything around her and is no trouble at all. However, after a time, Jess notices that Anna is not developing at the same rate as other children of the same age, and although she hopes that Anna is merely a late developer, she knows her child is different. And Jess is right; Anna is different and, after visits to doctors, she is identified as a child with special needs. (No spoilers, we learn all of this early on in the novel).

Narrated by Jess's friend, Eleanor, as she looks back over the years, 'The Pure Gold Baby' is the story of Jess's and Anna's journey together and the sacrifices and the decisions Jess has to make for Anna. During the course of the story, through Eleanor, we learn not just about Jess's and Anna's shared life, but also the lives of the group of friends around them; we read of love affairs, separations, illness, death, successes and failures. We also read about famous literary figures who had to face difficulties when members of their family experienced problems with developmental issues, including Jane Austen, Doris Lessing, Arthur Miller and Pearl Buck.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gerard P. on 13 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover
How do we come to terms with our lives, how do we adapt to our own inner weaknesses and strengths of mind and body and character? That is what Margaret Drabble focusses on here, at least in my interpretation.

It's easy to understand why this work gets such a variety of reviews, from one to five-star. If you're looking for a thrilling story, with a stunning denouement, then look elsewhere. But if you want a distanced but warm-hearted reflection of an age, written by an extremely thoughtful and intuitive observer, then this is one for you. Jess, the mother of the 'pure gold baby' Anna, is an anthropologist and the book reflects London society in a reflection of the way we look at the indigenous peoples of Africa and elsewhere, which brings in an element of the universality of human experience. It is 'philosophical' in a non-academic way and it might well inspire many a reader to look more reflectively (and perhaps more forgivingly?) on his or her own life, the mistakes we all make, the weaknesses that we all have.

And of course she is a wonderful writer, who knows the nitty-gritty of formulating good sentences. She understands her characters and portrays them in such a way that they came alive for me. in that sense, I greatly enjoyed reading the book and it gave me lots of food for thought,
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read many Margaret Drabble novels I was looking forward to a good yarn with social and political insights. This book disappointed me in its story telling and in its relentlessly didactic messages . I was reminded of Margaret's sister AS Byatt who can never resist the temptation in her novels to demonstrate how knowledgable she is about Art, Science,Poetry and History. I like to learn from novels but don't wish to have facts forced down my throat.

This novel deals mainly with the issues around the care of people with mental health issues and learning disabilities from the sixties to the present day . It , disappointingly, comes to no conclusions. It is told through the eyes of an observer, a friend of Jess the main character ,and her daughter Anna who is what is now referred to as someone with special educational needs. The choice of terms for her condition is a significant in this book for there is much looking backwards as well as forwards to the changing views and language around learning disabilities and mental health issues. The use of the word "idiot" for example or " retard" is discussed . Words that we would now never use but we struggle to find words that describes without offending.

The book begins by referring to "proleptic tendencies". I had never heard the term " proleptic " before but I needed to understand its meaning as a sort of prophetic insight as it came up throughout the book. The narrator keeps reminding the reader that she is telling a story of which she knows the ending. Or, not so much an ending but a the process of a journey that seems to go nowhere, resolve nothing, and end in an acceptance that life is unpredictable for most of the characters.

The story begins and ends with Africa.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ACB(swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER on 22 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Jess Speight, a young anthropologist, returns from Zambia where she has been studying a genetic mutation, back to London and the swinging sixties. She becomes pregnant by her supervising professor who promptly does a disappearing act shortly after daughter Anna is born. The narrative is provided from a distance by Jess's friend, Eleanor. It gradually becomes clear that Anna is slow in her mental development although the exact nature of the underlying problem is never revealed. Single mother Jess and Anna's journey takes the reader from the 1960's to the present day. Eleanor flicks between past and present tense. Jess remains fiercely independent whilst sharing her life with the lovable Anna who is totally dependent on Jess.

From Eleanor's narration, we learn of the people surrounding Jess, of motherhood, treatment of mental illness, affairs, marriage, divorces, ageing, death, blurring of memories and senses. The rich developing relationship and lives of Jess and Anna, how they interact and are affected by Anna's disability are central to the novel interweaving famous figures with family members with disabilities, including David Livingston, the novelists Jane Austen and Pearl Buck. Not overly sentimental nor melodramatic, the author's strength is in her shrewdness, observation and character insight; how we interpret our inner lives and what it means to live a meaningful life with the transition into the very different modern times. A stirring, intelligently written book. Not Margaret Drabble's best but a meaningful and enjoyable read.
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