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The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble

The Sea Lady (2006)

by Margaret Drabble

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339949,079 (3.07)30



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Excruciatingly boring. Could not get into it for the life of me. I bailed on it. Sad because I really did want to like this book. ☹️ ( )
  TheReadingMermaid | Apr 14, 2018 |
Possibly helpful geographical note: The setting of this novel maps seamlessly on Berwick-on-Tweed, the northernmost town in England. (Which is to say Finsterness is Berwick, and Ornemouth is Tweedmouth.) Never been there myself, I'm just a compulsive user of Google Maps.
  sonofcarc | Jul 5, 2014 |
Not sure why I bothered finishing this. It was unimpressive. ( )
  marti.booker | Dec 2, 2013 |
I love reading Margaret Drabble. I have loved reading Margaret Drabble since the 1970s when I stumbled upon Waterfall and The Garrick Year. She is the paramount novelist of manners of my generation. Yes, I am a baby-boomer, a feminist, an American, an unfamous academic, a once-urban dweller -- and oh, I recognize and know her people: I've spent time in England, married an (American) graduate of an English drama school, and my best friends in NYC in the 1970s were English. And Margaret Drabble has grown old with me -- like Margaret Atwood and Judi Dench and Helen Mirren and Doris Lessing -- and even Meryl Streep. Can I say I am grateful for those women who acknowledge that growing old is a part of life? I wonder if Jane Austen would have written about growing old if she had lived beyond the age of 42?

In The Sea Lady, an eminent marine biologist, Humphrey Clark, and a famous performer turned feminist academic, Ailsa Kelman, are on their way to the relatively new University of Ornemouth in Finsterness in the north of England to receive honorary degrees. Their lives are entwined -- they spent a memorable summer together 50 years ago at the seaside in Finsterness and later connected for a brief period in London in the 1960s when they were in their twenties. But they haven't seen each other for over 30 years. The journey back to Finsterness is a journey back in time and remembrance. I savored every page. ( )
3 vote janeajones | Jun 2, 2010 |
There are some good things about this book, but I'm not sure that it is a great success in an overall sense. I liked her proposition that childhood friends do still remember each other decades later. I've been thinking about my childhood friends and I always convince myself that although I remember them, they probably haven't given me a second thought. I wonder if she's right? Another thing I liked was her concept that some sort of meaningful reconciliation between people can occur many, many years after a time of conflict or unhappiness. Finally, I found resonance with her descriptions of how a young child can find great significance in incidents, books, observations, and people, that would, to "an outside observer", seem to be of minimal importance.
On the other hand, the main character and his primary adult focuses did not really draw me in. Three hundred and fifty two pages seemed excessive. I'm not turned off Margaret Drabble though. ( )
  oldblack | Jul 15, 2009 |
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'You'll not forget these rocks and what I told you?
You'll not forget me - ever, ever, ever?
'Dialogue on the Headland' Robert Graves
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The winning book was about fish, and to present it, she appeared to have dressed herself as a mermaid, in silver sequinned scales.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0151012636, Hardcover)

Margaret Drabble has brought all her many gifts to bear in this excellent novel, The Sea Lady. It is scientific, sociological, romantic, psychological, ironic, satiric, poignant, downright funny, and even rather mysterious in some parts.

It is the story of Humphrey Clark and Ailsa Kelman, now in their sixties and traveling--separately--to receive honorary degrees from a university in Ornemouth, a town on the North Sea. They met in Ornemouth when they were children, spent one summer together along with a local boy, Sandy Clegg, and Ailsa's brother, Tommy. It was that kind of summer which, however brief, has a bearing on the rest of one's life. Humphrey Clark's introduction to the sea sets him on his career path. Newly minted personalities were coming into being, the cruelty of children was all around, every moment was writ large in the minds of all of them, especially Humphrey.

Now, more than 50 years have passed and both Ailsa and Humphrey are reminiscing--Ailsa, typically, on an airplane, and Humphrey, just as typically, on a train. Their accounts of the last 50-plus years are unsparing, recounting their successes and failures, the places where their lives intersected and the results of those meetings, their professional and personal lives--all that has brought them to this day. Their memories are attenuated through the prism of their individual differences of temperament and interests. Humphrey is an innocent and a bit of a plodder, having made his name as a marine biologist, while Ailsa, the feminist, is a wild card: "Ailsa Kelman lacks method, but what she lacks in method she makes up for in energy and originality and output and panache." They could not be more different, but when did that ever stand in the way of connection? They have been brought to this ceremony by Sandy Clegg, now Alistair Macfarlane, whose own story is worth knowing.

The sea and its creatures are the metaphors that inform the story and at the end, we see that this meeting between Ailsa and Humphrey is "a journey of purification." This is Drabble at her very best. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:57 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Two distinguished guests are travelling separately toward a ceremony where they will meet for the first time in three decades. Both are apprehensive, as they review the successes and failures of their public life, and their secret history. Humphrey and Ailsa met as children, by the grey northern sea to which they are returning. Humphrey was already a serious child, drawn toward the underwater world of marine biology, but there were as yet few signs of Ailsa's dazzling transformation into a flamboyant feminist celebrity. The novel traces the evolution of their careers and their passionately entangled relationship, and brings them together again to see what they will make of their past, and in what spirit they will be able to face the future.… (more)

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