BRITISH AUTHOR CHALLENGE MAY 2015 - MARGARET DRABBLE AND MARTIN AMIS
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Margaret Drabble is the sister of AS Byatt and (ssshh) they don't get along.
Martin Amis is the son of Kingsley Amis and (sshh) possibly just as obnoxious and condescending. Is a hell of a writer though to be fair.
Margaret Drabble novels :
A Summer Bird-Cage (1963)
The Garrick Year (1964)
The Millstone (1965)
Jerusalem the Golden (1967)
The Waterfall (1969)
The Needle's Eye (1972)
The Realms of Gold (1975)
The Ice Age (1977)
The Middle Ground (1980)
The Radiant Way (1987)
A Natural Curiosity (1989)
The Gates of Ivory (1991)
The Witch of Exmoor (1996)
The Peppered Moth (2001)
The Seven Sisters (2002)
The Red Queen (2004)
The Sea Lady (2006)
The Pure Gold Baby (2013)
She has also written some interesting non-fiction including biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson.
The Rachel Papers (1973)
Dead Babies (1975)
Other People (1981)
London Fields (1989)
Time's Arrow: Or the Nature of the Offence (1991)
The Information (1995)
Night Train (1997)
Yellow Dog (2003)
House of Meetings (2006)
The Pregnant Widow (2010)
Lionel Asbo: State of England (2012)
The Zone of Interest (2014)
He has also written a few short story collections and quite a body of non-fiction.
The Pattern in the Carpet - This is a non-fiction one about jigsaw puzzles. When I saw this one, I knew it was the one I wanted to read because our family loved putting together jigsaw puzzles.
Night Train - It was one of the ones our library had in e-book format. It's supposed to be a mystery, so I figured I could put up with it more. Amis didn't seem like an author I would typically read.
I'm going to be reading Pure Gold Baby for Drabble, but I don't know for Amis. I was going to read Einstein's Monsters and that and Time's Arrow are the only ones of Amis's books that have ever really appealed. I might have missed him out if it weren't for the fact that I have a 100% record with the BAC so far and want to keep it that way. So maybe Lionel Asbo: State of England. In the normal course of events I would avoid that book like the plague, for the not very good reason that the two most common covers feature staffies as devil dogs (at least they look like staffies - maybe on reading it I'll discover they're pit bulls). As the owner of a staffy myself that's not a stereotype that I'm keen to perpetuate. Although to be honest one of the staffies looks more like it is going to lick someone.
I've got Time's Arrow by Amis lined up. This will be our first meeting and I'm very curious as to what he's got to say.
I was going to give this month a pass but I have just discovered that I own a copy of The Peppered Moth so I will be reading it for this challenge and my ROOT challenge.
.... but I really have to finish my Maugham read first.
It's so so SO wrong... but I'm sort of hooked on Dead Babies.
Which is a sentence I seriously should never have to write.
ETA: Apropos of the above. I take that back as thoroughly as anyone can. The book has hit a point of being so utterly foul that I am nauseated by reading it. I just want it finished and done with.
House of Meetings Read in German
This is a strong story about The Gulag. Even though it’s a fiction, it’s based on real incidents about the camps, the inmates and the Russian politic. The protagonist is writing his family story for his daughter. He is writing pitiless about what he had done but also about the system. He also tells the reader about his love to his brother which was an inmate of a camp, too. How he tried to protect him and how he admired but also hated his pacifism.
He shows us how such a camp was organised that there were classes between the inmates like in real life only much more brutal.
For me this story is a must-read. Isn't it so that there are still types of Gulag on our planet but we close our eyes to not see and notice how barbarous people are treated? Isn't it still so that there are people who point to political injustice and who get muzzled by the establishment?
I remember well when I was in my teens and I proclaimed my thoughts loud that there were people who told me: Shut up otherwise we send you to Siberia. Luckily, I grew up in a country where there were no such consequences but I know that there are still a lot of countries where people aren't allowed to say what they are thinking.
I was going to pick House of Meetings too. Good to see you enjoyed it, Barb.
It sounds very, very dark.
I've been able to read a bit this morning before heading to PT and work. I'm only on page 36 of The Peppered Moth but I'm starting to fall in love with the rhythm of the narrative.
I'll be reading The Millstone, too. The food on your page looks wonderful!
I'm not planning to read either of this month's authors, but I will be watching the responses to Drabble, and if anyone has one of hers to recommend highly, I'll put it on the tbr piles for someday. Neither she nor her sister have ever particularly called out to me. Amis, I think, is probably not for me, and that' s OK.
>18 lkernagh: We'll just paddle along in the same boat, Lori. I only just started Of Human Bondage.
>35 lkernagh: I'm reading it in print, and not for the first time, although that was long, long ago. It's not a ripping fast read, but I'm piecing it out with some that are, for the "Murder & Mayhem" theme in May. I think that will work out fairly well for me. I only do audio in the car, and as I have no long drives coming up, Bondage might be pretty interminable in that format for me!
>35 lkernagh: Lori, I started reading Human Bondage from the book last month, since I have a very nice illustrated edition of it, and then as you say, finding it very slow going, I got the audiobook and alternated between the two, which as I've probably mentioned to you before, is my preferred method for reading big volumes these days.
Have yet to pick up Drabble or Amis this month, but I'll get there.
I finished Time's Arrow yesterday; I thought it was kind of gimmicky, but still a solid novel. I doubt I'll ever read it again, but I'm glad I did read it.
I started Red Queen yesterday afternoon, and so far it is intriguing. I have been interested in Korean history every since I read A Single Shard after it won the Newbery Award. Red Queen certainly has packed much historical information into the first 50 pages. One of them is the spelling of Korea. According to Drabble it was the Japanese who began to spell Korea with a K. Prior to that it was spelled with a C - as in Corea. The reason - because K comes after J in the Western alphabet and it went without saying that Korea could not come before Japan in anything.
As I said - intriguing.
I finished Margaret Drabble's The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws. It is a rambly part-memoir, part-jigsaw-informational, part-game-history mess of a book. She acknowledges this near the end of the book:
"I have strayed far from my plan, which was to write a brief illustrated history of the jigsaw puzzle. I find myself with a bucket full of leftover tesserae, some with jagged and uneven edges encrusted with old mastic and resin, which do not fit into my original design."
Because of Paul's author choices this month, I had to smile at this sentence:
"I have spent as much on dentistry as Martin Amis, with whose problems I have great sympathy. "
She does mention her sister (though not by name, if I remember correctly), in terms which confirm Paul's assertion in his OP. She says of her Peppered Moth that it got dressed up too much to be a real memoir, and that personalities as written in this book are more realistic.
But gracious - the territory she covers!. I lost count of all the authors she's read (complete with their excerpts) who mentioned anything about jigsaws (or other games), all the visits she's made to museums, libraries, the art, tapestries, movies... If there was any kind of minutiae to be found about puzzles or games, she found a place to put it in this book. Also other stuff I had to google: "the only surviving open-field system of medieval strip farming in England", "the ship of death", Sherwood Forest's Major Oak, Cochno Stone, Delany's Fora Delanica, Goody Two-Shoes".
I didn't love it, but I finished it, which is more than I can say for the only one of her sister's books that I started and abandoned forever.
>40 countrylife: I forgot to comment on that sentence, but it struck me as ironic as well! I have to agree with you about the rambling though.
Interesting aversion to Amis I have to say since he was the darling of the 8th decade of the last century amongst the chattering classes. I read Money years ago and I do not remember enjoying it much. I started Lionel Asbo : State of England which despite zipping along is generating the same nausea that Bekka mentions above. Pastiche meets the grotesque in cariacature!
I have finised The Millstone by Drabble and really quite enjoyed it despite it being related by a young lady about her pregnancy from which she manages to remain fairly aloof throughout.
It is not my usual sort of book at all, but I am finding myself enjoying Drabble's The Garrick Year. I might end up disliking every character including the narrator!
I just finished my first Drabble book, The Pure Gold Baby, about a mother giving up her career as an anthropologist to raise a special-needs daughter. I didn't like the fact that it was narrated by a friend of the mother and it seemed to be more theme-driven than about developing the characters. I like Drabble's sisters writing better and will stick with A. S. Byatt! No Amis for me this month...
I am deep into Red Queen by Margaret Drabble and am enjoying it. This is a novel that uses as its basis a memoir written by a Korean woman who was consort to the Crown Prince in the middle 1700's. The author has chosen to present the memoir as a fictionalized account in the first half of the novel, and then the novel skips to the present and the life of a modern day researcher who is working on the memoir where it finishes up. I am about 5 pages from finishing the first section of the novel and find it full of tidbits about Korean culture and history. The author has used the "ghost" of the author as a way to give voice to the past and for the most part it works. However, I can also see why some people might not like this technique. I will wait to reserve judgement until I have read the whole.
>44 Donna828: I have heard tell Donna that The Pure Gold Baby is Drabble's duffer. I have to say The Millstone was more accessible than the Byatt books that I have read.
I finished reading The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble and enjoyed it. This was a surprise because many of the people reading her books this month have not been that enthusiastic about them. h I thought this was an excellent book. The author uses a plot device that I am not quite sure works all the way through the book, but on the whole the book was very interesting.
The first half of the book is set in Korea in the last half of the 1700's. The second half of the book is set in modern times. It is this half of the book that doesn't work as well as I would have liked. The book is chocked full of Korean history and all of the characters are engaging enough that on the whole the book kept my interest for the full 360 pages. I highly recommend this book and gave it 4 1/2 stars. I don't know if I will read another of her books based on what people have said here but I really liked this one.
>49 benitastrnad: I completely agree with you. I loved the first half the book and thought the second half didn't even come close.
I finished The Millstone. Although I enjoyed the story, I don't feel that the author gave enough attention to the ending.
>49 benitastrnad: >50 jolerie: I'm glad you both enjoyed The Red Queen, but not surprised the second part isn't as gripping.
I just started on The Red Queen too, and I got hooked in right from the prologue, as Margaret Drabble has based herself for this biographical fiction on various translations of The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea. Now of course I'm dying to get my hands on that book too and have suggested it as a library purchase, since it's nearly impossible to find a good copy at much less than $30, including the Kindle version. Am now just 30 pages in with the Drabble book, so we'll see how I find it going forward, but so far, so very good.
Finished reading Lionel Asbo: State of England and didn't like it at all. It left quite a bad taste
In my mouth and left me with the impression that I would probably not like Martin Amis. And I didn't think it was a very good book.
My review is here:
The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble ★★★★½
I loved the first part of the book, which is told in the voice of Lady Hyegyong, who was married to Prince Sado, heir to the throne in 1744 when they were both nine year old children, and who managed to survive court intrigues, murders and political upheavals into old age and saw her son become King Chongjo, against all odds. Margaret Drabble undertook the writing of this book after she was introduced to a translation of The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong and fell under the spell of the Crown Princess's voice, which by all accounts transcends time and space.
(see the rest of the review on my thread or on the book page).
Finished Jerusalem the Golden by Margaret Drabble. One of Drabble's earliest novels took me right back to the 1960s--very much the angst and tenor of the times. Might be hard for those who didn't experience that era to relate to the internal deliberations of these characters, but it was relevant for an aging boomer like me.
Struggling with my Drabble (The Radiant Way). It's going to have to roll :/
Yep, me too for The Radiant Way. I'm calling it TBRL (to be read later).
I finished Drabble's The Peppered Moth last night. I liked it a lot, but the narrative style won't appeal to everyone. It reminded me of the voice in many of the old newsreels that I've seen on TCM.
I finished The Pure Gold Baby last night, and was fairly disappointed. This deals with the life of a child born with learning disabilities to a single mother in the London of the early 1960's. As I work for a charity that provides support to children and adults with learning disabilities I was particularly interested to read this book, thinking it might provide an insight into the pressures on families. Unfortunately, it didn't seem very insightful at all, and went off on a tangent at frequent intervals.
I have a Drabble book coming rather belatedly through the library, although I can't remember which. And I read Amis' Money - and it's probably fair to say I can appreciate his skill as an author, but didn't necessarily enjoy the experience. Glad to have read it though.
I've done a fair bit of reading since the middle of May and am now caught up with the BAC. I've used the library for all the selections so far.
Completed for January through May:
Evelyn Waugh/BRIDESHEAD REVISITED
Daphne Du Maurier/REBECCA
Somerset Maughm/THE PAINTED VEIL
Margaret Drabble/THE SEVEN SISTERS and THE PEPPERED MOTH
It looks like I'm alone in preferring the second half of The Red Queen to the first. The frequent references to 21st century things in a story set in the 18th just bugged the crap out of me.
It bothered me some. I thought those references were unnecessary. I am not stupid. I get it that she is a ghost. But that said, I thought her story was much more interesting. Who cares about a middle aged academic having an affair with a much older much more successful academic? The best parts of that story were when she tied that part of the story to that of the princess. The trip to the castle and then to the fortress were very well done. I just thought the Crown Princess was a more interesting person.
>64 benitastrnad: I think the story of the real Crown Princess is very interesting, but I thought Drabble was shockingly inept at telling that story; to me, it read like she tried to turn an encyclopedia entry into a first person story. While I didn't particularly care about the academic, I thought Drabble did a much better job at telling her--admittedly boring--story.