Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble

Review based on ARC.

Perhaps my expectations have risen too high.  Or perhaps this is just another book that... had so much potential but just did not meet it.

As you'll read in every other blurb or review, Jess is an anthropology student with a bright career ahead of her.  She has an affair with her married professor and "finds herself" pregnant... er, I mean, she got pregnant.  Although that's not an altogether surprising result of having an affair with a member of the opposite gender.... I'll at least give them that this was in the 60s.. in London.  So, okay, she finds herself a single mom and .. I guess it makes sense to become a free-lance writer to keep her kid fed rather than continue on an anthropology career.  Sorry, I'm just a bit confused because I know actual free-lance writers and on the whole their money situation is neither good nor steady.  But they do it because they love the writing and there's potential for the future.  Conversely, staying in a career-oriented educational program seems like a smart decision.  I have friends who went to law school w/ little babies and kids (and, yes, no dads). and sure it's hard but.... anyway, I digress.

Jess' baby Anna is the pure gold baby.  Sunny, happy, and developmentally delayed.  And so dubbed the Pure Gold Baby.  The book spans 50 years, to the present, and we get to watch as Jess and Anna struggle (well, Jess struggles...) with every day life -- jobs, friends, men.  So yeah, it's one of those kind of books that just goes on, without a plot per se -- no real climax -- just character development and ongoing life.

And as I've said before, in order for those books to really impress me, they have to ... well... really impress me.  They have to be really well done (e.g., Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart).  And Drabble's was fine, it was good, the writing was good, but it wasn't great.  So it got kind of boring... and kind of directionless.  And while I did keep reading and I was glad to have read it... and I thought that Drabble added some interesting perspectives and history about women's libbing... it didn't blow me away.

I'll agree with some of the other reviewers that perhaps the narration from Jess's friend was just a bit too detached.  She was privy to more, er, inside-knowledge than you might expect (thoughts and emotions) for a non-omniscient 3rd person perspective, but it was still just a little too cold, unemotional, and.. well, detached, for my tastes.

So overall, a good book.  If you're looking for something that has some history, some women's strength undertones, some discussion on developmentally disabled ... pick it up.  But it's not a blow-me-away book.

THREE AND A HALF of 5 stars..

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