MARGARET DRABBLE is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth, and The Needle's Eye, among other novels. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008.
The bold latest from by the ever-inventive Drabble (The Red Queen, etc.) tells the tale of two aging academics-Ailsa Kelman, flamboyant feminist activist and TV talking head, and marine biologist Humphrey Clark-who are traveling separately to the North Sea coastal town of Ornemouth: she's presenting a book award that he, unknowingly, will receive. The two met at Ornemouth as children one summer toward the end of WWII; they lost track of one another and haven't seen each other since their brief, disastrous marriage in 1960s London. A cocky narrator reveals the charged memories, of childhood and beyond, that the trip triggers for both-and occasionally breaks free to fill in narrative gaps and pose destiny-altering scenarios. Neither is content: Humphrey is lonely and dissatisfied by his scholarship's mere competence; Ailsa, twice divorced, is uncertain if she's a success or a caricature of success (her cervix has been on TV). Secondaries include red-headed local boy Sandy Clegg, and Ailsa's rich, unscrupulous brother Tommy, in thick with the royals. Nothing as simple as a love story, this prismatic novel shines as a faceted portrait of England's changing mores, as an ode on childhood's joys and injustices, and a primer for marine biology, complete with hermaphrodite crayfish and fossils of sea lilies. Seductive as the tides, it pulls the reader in. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Two British academics meet after decades and reconstruct their frayed lives; see the review, p. 91. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
PRAISE FOR THE SEA LADY "[A] tour de force . . . With lyrical originality Drabble captures the idealistic, eternally self-absorbed paradoxes of the aging baby-boom generation. The result, like its contradictory protagonists, is as sensual as a moonlit beach, as bracing as an offshore wind."--People (4 stars) "A thoroughly enchanting blend of scientific erudition, social satire and domestic comedy from a novelist who continues to surprise us."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World