The last book by Margaret Drabble I reviewed was The Pure Gold Baby, which I liked very much. I see I read it over a weekend. Her most recent novel, The Dark Flood Rises, took me much longer and is the reason I haven’t read many books this month. There it sat on the table and there I sat on the sofa not really wanting to pick it up again. This is because it’s all about ageing and dying, which is a pretty depressing subject for someone my age.
The main character, Fran, is in her seventies but still employed and hyperactive. Her work involves inspecting living facilities for the elderly, a useful way in to the main topic of the book. There is a large cast of characters, mostly comfortably off and many with a literary background. The sometimes tenuous connection between them all is very cleverly woven into the story. It’s a very clever book, written in Drabble’s characteristic style (give me a paragraph from one of her novels and I bet I could guess the author), and absolutely full of literary allusions which I think would pass many people by.
Drabble ponders ways of dealing with age: Fran busily fills every minute while her ex Claude (who is dying) gives in and makes himself as comfortable as possible. The book raises many questions for which Drabble provides no answers. Is it better to die young and avoid old age altogether? Can religion provide consolation? Is life so worth living that it should be clung on to? Call no man happy until he is dead. is quoted at least twice. It’s a good book but one which offers no cheer or hope.
At the market on Saturday, I bought some of those facsimile Crime Club editions of Agatha Christie novels. It was a relief to finish TDFR and turn to Poirot, where a body is just a puzzle and nothing you need care about.
In other news, Winifred Peck's Bewildering Cares is currently free for the Kindle.