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The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble

The Peppered Moth (2000)

by Margaret Drabble

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This novel starts with Bessie, a brilliant scholar in a small mining town in Yorkshire, she is encouraged to get an education and move away. The detail of Bessie's early life until university is quite dense and engrossing with occasional flashes forward in time to her granddaughter, Faro. So far, so good. Bessie seems to be a well bought up girl who has a selfish streak. Her enjoyment of working during the war and her frustration when she has to give that up after the war are understandable for an intelligent woman. We then see her slide in to misery and unhappiness and the affect this has on her daughter is painful to see. The novel seemed to lose something at this point, as others have said Faro is difficult to grasp as a character. However, the section when Bessie dies and her daughter's reaction is excellent - making more sense when reading the author's afterword, which was very moving. Margaret Drabble pulls it all together reasonably well, linking DNA and families and place in a family saga. ( )
  Tifi | Apr 16, 2015 |
Should have stopped after the first 50 pages..... ( )
  francesanngray | Jan 7, 2015 |
I enjoyed the beginning of this novel, it reminded me of my own northern upbringing, my hometown is very like Breaseborough; Bessie and Christine's relationship was all too familiar. But Faro I just found annoying, and it felt like the ending of the novel had been rushed through. Drabble's afterword was very moving. ( )
  mlfhlibrarian | Jun 19, 2014 |
Reading this book, I realized it had been too long since I had read Margaret Drabble. I was quite a fan at one point. The inquisitive narrator takes readers through the implications of genetic connections between family members, particularly those rooted in a place: Yorkshire's mining country. ( )
  robinamelia | Jun 29, 2012 |
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On Remembering Getting into Bed with Grandparents

It's amazing we got that far, loveless'
As you were supposed to be, yet suddenly
I have a longing for your tripeish thigh;
Swallows, thronging to the eaves; a teasmade
Playing boring Sunday news and all sorts of
Rites and rituals which seemed notable but
Were really just trips in and out of the
Bathroom, the neurotic pulling back of
Curtains, stained-glass window at the top of
Hall stairs; dark chocolate like the secret
Meaning of the world in a corner cupboard:
Three-quarter circle smooth as a child's
Dreams and as far above reach ...
'Loveless', the daughters said, years later when
The slow-lack peppered their brains like a dust,
And life had grown as troublesome as thought.
Yet just tonight, I am dreaming of your thigh,
And of the unconscious swallows thronging the eaves.

Rebecca Swift, 1993
For Kathleen Marie Bloor
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It is a hot summer afternoon, in the hall of a Wesleyan Methodist chapel in South Yorkshire.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156007193, Paperback)

In The Peppered Moth, Margaret Drabble chronicles four generations in the life of a family, homing in on the female line and attempting to explain how genes, DNA, and environment can change or challenge an individual. The tale begins with Bessie Bawtry, a gifted young woman from a South Yorkshire mining town who fails to live up to her promise. It ends with her granddaughter, Faro Gaulden, "a bobby dazzler" radiant with opportunities and ideas, who nonetheless can't quite make the most of what she has. All of this would produce a fairly straightforward and enjoyable tale of family life--and inherited characteristics--but for Drabble's tone, which is, frankly, uneasy. It wavers from the clinical voice-over ("We must try to rediscover the long-ago infant in her vanished world") to the mawkish elegy ("O poor young girls in flower, you poor frail darlings, who will watch over you, who will guide and protect you?").

What happened? Drabble's afterword, in fact, explains a great deal of this waywardness. Bessie Bawtry, with her hard-won education, her relinquishing lapses into illness, and her life of deferred pleasures, is based on the author's mother. Consequently, there is the sense of filling in biographical gaps with fictional plots and characters, and then carefully plastering everything into place with a thin layer of scientific metaphor. Drabble, alas, is too personally involved with this material, and her prose suffers. It juts and jars at awkward angles, reducing The Peppered Moth to a gawky adolescent of a book instead of a mature, measured reflection on family history. --Eithne Farry

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A portrait of four generations of one family, this story explores themes of inheritance, DNA, the individual's place in history and fate. It spans from Bessie Bawtry, a small child living in a Yorkshire mining town in 1905, to her granddaughter, listening to a lecture on genetic inheritance.… (more)

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