Customer Reviews


33 Reviews
5 star:
 (8)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (6)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, Wise and Thought-Provoking
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...
Published 11 months ago by Susie B

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ... Margaret Drabble novels I was looking forward to a good yarn with social and political insights
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...
Published 1 month ago by MS MAXINE R KLEIN


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, Wise and Thought-Provoking, 5 Nov 2013
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (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. We also look at changing attitudes to learning disabilities and debates about whether special needs children should be educated in mainstream schools or special educational centres. So, the author has covered a fair amount in this story of motherhood, parental responsibility, family and friendship, and although I do have to say that this is not my favourite of Margaret Drabble's novels, it is a beautifully written, wise, informative and thought-provoking read.

4 Stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Up Baby, 22 Jan 2014
By 
ACB(swansea) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, lyrical, focussed, 13 Mar 2014
By 
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (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,
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ... Margaret Drabble novels I was looking forward to a good yarn with social and political insights, 4 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (Kindle Edition)
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. And Africa is a minor " character" throughout the book. Yet I am unsure as to how the African theme merges with the other themes in the book. Maybe there is supposed to be an implied illusion that in primitive villages in Africa life is simple and differences are accepted. This view is disputed at the end of the book by one of the characters Bob , Jess' s husband. But this is such an aside that it can easily be overlooked.

The characters in the book are all well written and interesting. Their stories told over the 50 or so years show , to some extent the changing views of a group of feminist left wing women. More interesting are the reflections on ageing and how views of old people change over the years . These insights are, to my mind, awkwardly inserted and disturb the flow of the novel

Having read written this review I realise that whilst the book held my interest for its overview of the lives of group of intellectuals who are roughly of my generation, over the years it disappointed in its inability to keep me engaged with the central characters or to care about their fate.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pure Gold?, 10 Mar 2014
By 
Ms. J. E. Davis "Jane" (Surrey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (Hardcover)
I wanted to very much to fall in love with The Pure Gold Baby. Unfortunately it didn't work for me. Even with a slow-burning novel, readers expect a big reveal. Since the narrator of the story is told by largely mystery third party (she is only named half-way through the book), I had it in mind that her identity and/or relationship with Jess and Anna would be the surprise I was waiting for. There were also hints that one of the children of the group of friends was going to go off the rails. Instead, Margaret Drabble paints a portrait of an era. A mother-daughter relationship, in which one doesn't get inside the heads of the main characters because of the choice of narrator. There are love affairs, tragedies, and depictions of events both large and small, but I didn't really feel involved in any of them. Perhaps if Jess had been allowed to narrate her own story, I would have felt differently.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Messy, 18 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (Kindle Edition)
I had not read any Margaret Drabble before so had no expectations. I was attracted to the subject matter as I have an adult daughter with learning disabilities. It discussed the subject and gave an essay on the history of learning disabilities in this country, comparing it with some examples in Africa, but drew no conclusions or gave any answers (although I would love to know what the suggestion was that Eleanor was going to discuss with Jess at the end.)
The set of people in the novel are typical London high fliers of which I suppose Drabble is one - it reads like a true story. This is not a good thing as it tailed off, like real life does, with no great revelation or twist at the end, which the tone of the writing suggests throughout.
There were quite a lot of minor characters thrown in whose stories were really irrelevant to the main theme, which was Jess and Anna, although Anna's character was not well drawn.
Side themes and opinions were many - Africa, middle class London life, getting old, children, love, change, mental health. The annoyingly repeated word proleptic jarred and was not adequately defined. I think she wanted it to mean the sense of an ending but it didn't work. And why bring Bob back at the end when he was clearly out of the picture?
I will read some of her earlier novels hoping for something less messy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not vintage Drabble, 4 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (Hardcover)
No one could love most of Margaret Drabble's novels more than I do. I was moved to tears by both The Radiant Way and The Middle Ground and have loved many others. This characters in this novel seemed poorly developed and mere excuses to wax forth about mental illness, admittedly an important subject. BUT... I felt somewhat as one of the reviewers of Thinks by David Lodge once said: the characters are basically "talking heads" although in this case perhaps a level worse because the narrator mostly carries the load. Where are the characters who can speak for themselves and who are not vehicles for a platform?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One mother's journey., 17 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (Kindle Edition)
This book gives us the story of Jess, who at the start of the story is a budding anthropologist, and of Anna
her "pure gold baby". Anna has learning difficulties and remains in a state of charmed innocence, as she grows alongside her mother.

The book is a gentle exploration of how Jess' life is moulded by her motherhood. She adapts her ambitions and expectations, often without realizing. In describing Jess' evolution, Drabble also captures how society has changed. Past certainties being overtaken by gentrification and globalisation. The reader gets to meet a cast of supporting characters sharing Jess and Anna's life - a failed poet, a carefree filmmaker and Jess' constant women friends.

The reader gets to learn a little bit about anthropology and how understandings of learning disability and mental illness have altered over one person's lifetime. This is not a dramatic family saga, instead it is a meandering journey with one mother and her child, who, in one sense, is destined never to grow up. Readers who enjoy human interest stories should find the trip worthwhile.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars very disappointing, 1 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (Hardcover)
As a first draft for a novel this would make a starting point for a writer as talented as Margaret Drabble. As it is the characters in the book are thinly drawn by a narrator who is herself unobservant, self-satisfied, and far too interested in telling us facts about anthropology or David Livingstone or Marcel Proust that are readily available in Wikipedia - as she says at the end 'I shouldn't have written any of this' . After 100 pages I was waiting for the twist in the plot that revealed something interesting about either the narrator or the characters but it never happened and the whole book becomes like a wander through North London on a wet day accompanied by a boring resident insisting on telling you mundane facts about her friends.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written account of how it was......, 8 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Pure Gold Baby (Kindle Edition)
The story almost exactly matched my own time as a mother . As a teacher I became deeply concerned with how we treated autism. But more than these considerations I recognised the characters and loved them and I am still thinking and wondering about them even 3 weeks after I finished the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Pure Gold Baby
The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
£1.79
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews