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on 6 March 2017
Good corresponds to the seller description thank you
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 January 2012
'The Radiant Way' is the first (and to my mind in some ways the strongest) of a trilogy of novels dealing with three women living in London in the 1980s and their families and friends. Liz, Alix and Esther are all from very different backgrounds in Northern England, but (thanks in part to the grammar school system - though much abused these days it did give some working-class people a real chance for a better life) all gain places at Cambridge and become inseparable friends. 'The Radiant Way' follows their lives from New Year's Eve 1979 through to the mid-1980s. Thatcher's Britain is vividly brought to life in all its horrors: increased financial greed; miners' strikes; cuts to education; the rich getting richer and the poor poorer. But Drabble also shows the beauty of London with its great variety of landscape, and describes wonderfully such things as gardens, interiors, meals and works of art. She's also great - without being pedantic - on social history, telling many a moving story, among which I particularly liked the one about Brian, a working-class Northern boy who in the 1960s (there's quite a lot of flashbacks from the 1980s in the book), via a brief grounding in the army and night classes, gets to university and becomes a novelist and a teacher of English, and marries Alix.

Against this brilliantly painted background the three women's lives develop in unexpected ways. Liz, whose television-producer husband announces just after midnight on New Year's Eve that he's leaving her for the aristocratic Lady Henrietta Latchett (one of the few characters in the novel that remains a bit lifeless) struggles with and gets used to singledom and is forced to confront her poverty-stricken Northern past, her crazy mother and the mysterious disappearance of her father, who vanished when she was a child. Alix, a part-time English teacher and part-time civil servant working largely with young girl offenders, curses Thatcher's cuts (which make her husband, teacher in a college of continuing education, fear for his job) and tries, in an essentially corrupt society, to live a morally good life. Esther, an elegant Jewish art historian, moves between England and Italy, and balances various erotic interests: a lover of longstanding in Italy who appears to be going crazy; his calm and elegant sister, who clearly loves Esther; and a young Conservative minister and patron of the arts who makes it clear he finds Esther very attractive. On the way, there is a crime mystery involving the 'Horror of Harrow Road' (a man who kills young women and executes them), and various other little mysteries to be solved. Occasionally Drabble spreads herself a bit too thin. Alix's almost-romance, for example, is never really brought to life and is dropped into the book too late to have any narrative weight (or indeed, as Alix still loves her husband Brian) to be convincing. But on the whole this is a rich, very enjoyable epic novel of life in 1980s London, peopled with a vivid cast of characters. Realistic fiction at its best.
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on 30 June 2000
The Radiant Way is the first of a trilogy which deals with the lives of three female friends who first met at Cambridge during the 1950s. The novel commences at a New Year's Eve party in 1979 and progresses through the first half of the 1980s. The dawn of the new decade presents changes in the lives of Liz Headleand, Alix Bowen and Esther Breuer. Liz left behind her northern origins to become a Harley Street Consultant Psychiatrist. Alix teaches English Literature in a Young Female Offenders Institute, and Esther is an Art Historian with a passion for Italy.
The changing personal lives of the three central characters are intricately intermingled with the changing political and social landscape of the early 1980s' under the new Thatcher government.
Drabble succeeds in creating three believable characters with their own psyches and histories. Details of how they first met and arrived at the present points in their lives are revealed through a series of 'flashbacks' which enhances the depths of the characters portrayed. Other minor characters are introduced throughout, some of whom are reasonably well developed in terms of their motivations and desires. This is set against a backdrop of the wider arena of a rapidly changing society.
In addition to the main story-line, Drabble introduces various sub-plots such as a family mystery and a serial killer prowling the streets of London. Furthermore she addresses and explores certain issues which were topical during the decade. These include the much contested subject of a north/south divide, government cutbacks in education and industry, the impending miners strike, and the increase in unemployment to name but a few. This has the effect of making the book rather time-specific, but does raise some very interesting questions about life during the first half of the 1980s.
This is definitely a good read in terms of portraying how the political impacts upon individual personal lives.
Some of the characters, as well as some of the themes are further developed during the two sequels A Natural Curiosity and The Gates of Ivory.
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on 19 January 2016
This book came out for a second outing since I read it in my first year at university, and it is surprising how much of it I had forgotten. I was never quite sure whether it was an observation of the lives of the three friends, Liz, Alix and Esther, or an examination of the effects of the political arena, as the 1980s dawn, on their lives.

The three friends met back at Cambridge University in the mid 1950s and now, approaching their mid 40s, they all meet up at Liz’s New Year’s Eve 1979 party where the winds of change are about to blow through all their lives in different ways as the new decade dawns. Drabble, like Liz and another minor character, comes from my home town and I was able to recognise it quite clearly from her descriptions; the local college (where I used to work), Park Hill Flats, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and the disappeared Royal Infirmary.

Of the three protagonists, it feels as if Liz is presented to us as the main character although the one I could relate to most, strangely enough, was Alix. Esther, I could not understand, or “get” at all (perhaps my lack of interest in art was responsible for this). I think, though, that the main character is Great Britain and the irrevocable changes that took place in our political landscape over the first half of the 1980s.

Were our three friends intended to have redeeming qualities? Liz was hard to understand and had come so far from her roots she had turned totally bourgeois. Her husband was a horror. Liz reflects, whilst getting ready for her New Year party, that she and Charles have a “modern marriage” which is simply another term for enabling infidelity. Although I related to Alix most, I have always leaned towards the Right politically and by re-examining our history – that I was too young to really appreciate – through this narrative, I could feel for her and Brian’s fears and sympathise with them. I was surprised that they had stayed so close as apart from their time together at university they seemed to have little in common once in their 40s. But their friendship endures and provides support and understanding through difficult times, shocking revelations and growth of character. And Liz realising she prefers the company of her cat to her unfaithful husband had me cheering all the way.

The Alix and Otto scenes were ludicrous, however as there was no reason to believe she was unhappy with her marriage. Equally ridiculous, and dangerous, was Alix’s behaviour with her prison students. I also felt the Harrow Road murderer and his last victim were beyond belief and verged on the sensationalist.

As well as being a good fiction read, this book is an education as well. The ending seems to fizzle out a little, but never fear, there are two sequels to take us into the 1990s. 4.5
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on 5 March 2000
I had to read this book for a literature class..I found the characters extremely boring and sometimes annoying...Its a shame that some of the characters she does mention, like Liz's children aren't a bit more developed. All in all a very boring book...
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on 12 December 2014
Lovely well preserved book so was very impressed when I received it. The storyline was not quite to my liking, far too discriptive, too much in the beginning. However recognise it as a very intelligently written book though hard to read through all the adjectives
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on 1 November 2010
For middle aged ladies an appropriate journey through our youth. Serious analysis of life in the 1980s with understanding insight into women's lot post the sexual revolution: women balancing careers, children, difficult marriages etc. Beautiful prose though rather tends to be indulgent- too many back stories and irrelevant details. It;s also about the nature of Evil and how to make sense of one's life. Reflective and thought provoking.
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on 11 April 2016
This is considered one of the better Drabble novels and it might have been, had it not been written in THE most insufferable style ever. I've grappled with some boring styles in my reading life, so my literary pain threshold is quite high, but 'The Radiant Way' turns boredom into a form of torture. Some time after Jerusalem the Golden, which was kind of OK but only just, Margaret Drabble fell in love with serial adjectives, pointless repetitions and superfluous similes, and she never let them go. Look at these examples:

'Liz Headleand's mother sits alone, ever alone, untelephoned, distant, incomprehending, incomprehended, remote, mad, long mad, imprisoned, secret, silent, silenced, listening to the silence of her house.'

Do we really need 13 adjectives in a row? And most of them repetitions, then some made heavier still by having to carry their own adverbs in tow? But this is the kind of appalling, interminable sentences the whole novel consists of. And it goes on for hundreds of pages. I used to think Iris Murdoch's writing was awful -- then I read this. At least half of this wordy drudgery should have been edited out, and the remaining half should have been pruned hard. Whatever the book might have had in way of story, characterizations, literary value, is drowned in a sea of repetitive rubbish. As for the subject matter, well, if you are interested in a narrow view of how the Cambridge-educated elite lived in 1980 and before, when jobs abounded and money was aplenty, then, by all means, give this boring and dated novel a go.
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on 15 December 2014
This was quite readable and a good reflection of the late 70s and early 80s. It is however very much from a feminist view point and concerns women's issues more. I was impressed with the writing though and might read more of her books again. My criticism would be a lack of linear narrative and lack of sympathy with the main characters so that in the end I couldn't remember who was who or if I cared about them. And I didn't know where the headless woman came from.
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on 31 August 2014
I had read no Margaret Drabble for years until I re-read "Jerusalm...". The elation I got from that led me to start this trilogy. It is a good read, beautifully written, with convincing characters who are sometimes frustrating, but always fascinating. I loved it.
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