Saturday, 8 September 2007


AUTHOR: Margaret Drabble


DATE READ: September 2007

NOTES: Humphrey Clark and Ailsa Kelman met briefly as children in north-east England. They later meet up as lovers and embark on a short unfortunate marriage. Both have gone on to eke out very different careers. Ailsa has made a name for herself through her academic work on feminism and then through media appearances. She scandalized people by putatively wearing a foetus as a pendant. Humphrey has had a fairly successful career as a marine biologist albeit not without disappointments. At the Green Grotto (in the white elephant at Greenwich) which he had a part in setting up is a robotic mermaid who moves in and out of the water. His embarrassment at this as he escorts his grandson is almost tangible.

Their stories unfold as they travel back to Ornemouth fifty years later to receive honorary doctorates at one of the country’s newer universities.

The book is a wonderful evocation of childhood at the seaside as well as the anxieties and uncertainties of ageing. There are constant references to sea life and marine biology (Ailsa’s name, her mermaid-like dress, their journey compared to salmon coming home to spawn)

Margaret Drabble is one of the best writers about older people - very welcome in a youth obsessed world.....

A grown-up book for grown-ups!

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