9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.5 Stars. Simply Wonderful.,
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This review is from: Jerusalem the Golden (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Margaret Drabble's wonderful novel `Jerusalem the Golden', was the winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction when it was first published, so I am very pleased to see that some of her earlier novels are being reprinted as Penguin Classics.
The novel centres on Clara Maugham, a young woman in her last year of university, having escaped from her dreary home in the suburban Yorkshire town of Northam. The first part of the story tells us of Clara's lonely childhood and how she has been brought up by an embittered mother who seems, to Clara, to have no purpose in life other than to criticize others and make her life difficult. Clara hates the way her mother looks down on their neighbours, wearily noting that it doesn't matter what one says or does, her mother will always find something reprehensible in it. Clara longs to escape from the depressing influence of her mother and, as the years pass, she begins to realize there is a way out of her tedious life. Clara develops into an attractive and intelligent young woman, who works hard, passes her exams and leaves home to go off to London University to study languages.
In London, at an after theatre drinks party, Clara meets the beautiful and elegant Clelia Denham and she is very keen to start a friendship with her. Clelia is part of a delightful, artistic, bohemian family who own a large and beautiful house in Highgate, full of books, old mirrors, faded Turkish carpets and wonderful eclectic pieces of furniture. Mrs Denham is a writer, Mr Denham a poet and Clelia is an artist. There are five grown up Denham children in all, each of them either beautiful, or talented, or both, and Clara cannot help but be enthralled by them all - especially the magnificent (and married) Gabriel who lets Clara know how much he is attracted to her.
This novel, possibly named `Jerusalem the Golden', because Clara sees the Denhams bathed in a golden light (just as Dick Whittington sees the streets of London as being paved with gold), is the story of how Clara is seduced into leading the life she believes she wants to live, and into being the person she thinks she wants to be. Drabble's writing, characterized by perceptive observation, is luminous; I have not read anything of hers for years, but picking up this book was like slipping into a warm bath with a glass of cold wine. Wonderful.