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The Millstone [Hardcover]

Margaret Drabble
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Sep 1965
A young woman with very little knowledge of life finds she is pregnant after her first sexual encounter, but she decides to bring up the child, and in the helplessness of her baby she finds unexpected joy and fulfilment. From the author of THE GARRICK YEAR, THE GATES OF IVORY and THE MIDDLE GROUND.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; First Edition edition (9 Sep 1965)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297178814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297178811
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,015,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield in 1939 and read English at Cambridge. She was awarded a DBE in 2008. Since the 1960s she has written 17 novels - The Millstone was her third - and she has also edited two editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. She is married to the biographer Michael Holroyd. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
My career has always been marked by a strange mixture of confidence and cowardice: almost, one might say, made by it. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable, if dated 16 Oct 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is very much a book of the place and times (England, mid 60s). An intellectual, rather naive young woman gets pregnant at a time when unmarried mothers were very much frowned upon, and keeps the baby. (Hence the title.) Nevertheless the book is an insight into the times, is very well written, never drags, and captures all the characters just perfectly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By mr blue
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This fine piece of writing is spoiled by a longish section that really is dull and lacking momentum.
The heroine, who is single, falls pregnant. This is the sixties and abortions are rarely permitted. She is a curious heroine but a believable one. A postgraduate student living in London, she is sexually naive, maybe frigid; she is attractive, pedantic and very honest. Her pregnancy is an 'ironic', her attempt at a do-it-yourself abortion perhaps the only camp-comedy one of its kind in literature.
Then the story sags.
The final sixty pages, out of only 160, are superb. There is suspense, anger, love, and always Ms Drabble's wonderful prose.
Do be warned if you come to this new to the author. Yhis is not her normal style. She wrote this in the style she thought her heroine would use; painfully long sentences,cringe-making views,much in fact as a sixth-former might have written.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Before Sixties started swinging ... 23 July 2010
Format:Paperback
This was published in 1965 and even when I read it in the late 1970s, it seemed hopelessly dated. As a young woman in my 20s, safely in the Pill generation, I couldn't relate to Rosamund's passivity -about sex, about men, about allowing herself to get pregnant on a one-night stand with a man of ambivalent sexuality ... I mean, she's a PhD student in her mid-20s, not a dopey teenager.
Having just re-read it out of curiosity, I still find it hard to relate to her as a character; surely a girl of her education and class would have been more careful (as she was hardly swept off her feet with passion for gay George).
Interesting as a snapshot of sexual mores and attitudes just when they were on the cusp of change. But for historical/social interest only; as a novel, this hasn't stood the test of time.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Unexpected Blessings of Motherhood 9 Feb 2012
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
A courageous account of single motherhood in the 1960s. Rosamund Stacey is a PhD student specializing in Elizabethan poetry. Although attractive, intelligent and anxious about being alone too much, she is frightened of sex, and still a virgin in her mid-twenties. In order to conceal this fact, she falls back on the none-too-attractive attitude of pretending to be a bit of 'a one', maintaining an almost-romantic relationship with two men, pretending to each that she's sleeping with the other. Why Rosamund does this, apart from to appear desired, is never quite clear, particularly as she appears to dislike one of the men in question. Certainly it does not make her happy. Finally, frustrated with her emotional life, she is reckless for perhaps the first time, and sleeps with George, a BBC Radio producer who she barely knows and whom she initially assumes is gay (whether George is bisexual, shy or, like Rosamund, putting on an act to conceal insecurities, is never known). This one sexual encounter leaves Rosamund pregnant. As George has never contacted her after their one night together, she assumes that he doesn't want to be part of her life, and so never contacts him to tell him about the child. After one botched attempt to miscarry via a quantity of gin and a hot bath, and a few vague thoughts about abortion, Rosamund decides to have her baby. Becoming a mother to little Octavia unexpectedly changes her life - depending on her friends (such as her novelist friend Lydia) for support, she begins to care far more about them, and to engage far more strongly with others. Octavia's serious illness (what exactly it is - a heart defect? A chest complaint of a serious kind? we are never told) also allows Rosamund to admit her vulnerability. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book Group 21 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading it and I'll be talking about it together with my Italian friends who've read it in Italian.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Author 17 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author's age and background are sufficiently similar to mine to make her books particularly evocative - and of course she writes extremely well
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By sally tarbox TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Masterly written novel, following 1960s academic, Rosamund Stacey. From her privileged background - amusing, bohemian friends; use of a nice flat while her parents are abroad; male admirers (but nothing more) - she is suddenly brought up short when she discovers she is pregnant after a one night stand with (gay?) George.
Suddenly she has to take on board a whole world to which she was oblivious: the badly dressed working class patients with whom she must now mix at the doctor's; the disapproval of her siblings. And whether to get back in touch with George and tell him of the fact.
Interesting from a historical perspective - did NHS matrons really refuse to let parents visit their infants for a couple of weeks after surgery in case it upset them?!
Rosamund doesn't seem to suffer the persecution that one equates with single-motherhood in this era; she acknowledges that this is due in no small part to her class background:
'Had I not been who I am and born and reared as I was, I would probably never have dared: I only thought I could get away with it, to put it briefly, because those ambulance men collected me from a good address, and not from a bedsitter in Tottenham...So, in a way, I was cashing in on the foibles of a society which I have always distrusted; by pretending to be above its structures, i was merely turning its anomalies to my own use.'
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Not what you expect - don't believe the publisher's blurb
From the publisher's blurb you would be forgiven for thinking this is a topical novel about a 1960s social/moral issue: the plight of an unmarried mother in modern Britain. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Christopher H
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, given that it comes from the pen of a leading...
There is a long tradition in English literature of novels about unmarried mothers, dating back at least to Elizabeth Gaskell's "Ruth" and Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" in the... Read more
Published on 20 Sep 2011 by J C E Hitchcock
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
These days, it's hard to believe that anyone could write a whole novel just about unplanned pregnancy and being a single mother, but in 1965 Rosamund Stacey found herself in what... Read more
Published on 9 May 2011 by R. Davies
2.0 out of 5 stars If you can remember this then you weren't there
A rather dated tale of an ill-prepared unmarried single mother. Some people might regard this as a good juxtaposition of the, probably over-exaggerated stories of the hedonistic... Read more
Published on 3 Oct 2010 by K. Voce
5.0 out of 5 stars Unplanned pregnancies in the sixties
This novel is a descrition of the experience of a single girl finding herself pregnant after a one night stand in the sixties, prior to the Abortion Act and reliable contraception. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by Late starter
4.0 out of 5 stars A first person account of being
Rosamund Stacey is the first person narrator of her own story in the Millstone by Margaret Drabble. Rosamund is a single mother - nothing strange about that, perhaps, at least in a... Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2008 by Philip Spires
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucky in work, unlucky in love
This moving short novel portraits the rude awakening of a young woman, who after making love with a 'silly bugger' becomes an unmarried mother. Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2006 by Luc REYNAERT
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