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Monday, May 15, 2017

The Radiant Way (1987) by Margaret Drabble


Book Review
The Radiant Way (1987)
 by Margaret Drabble

  Margaret Drabble is one of he most intelligent chroniclers of educated, upper-middle class women living in 1980's England, for better or for worse.  She writes squarely within the mainstream of 20th century English fiction:  characters are highly educated, articulate and unhappy with their marital status.  The main difference between the character of The Radiant Way and any set of characters from a 19th century English novel is the absence of of an obsessive concern with the inheritance of property and the legitimacy of birth in The Radiant Way.

  Basically, what the women- three friends from "scholarship" backgrounds who meet while attending Cambridge University in the late 1970's, do is complain. Not without reason, of course.  And of course, the story of the English novel is the story about men and women complaining about their spouses, so Drabble is hardly unique.   I would argue though, that by the late 1980's, none of these type of novels- be they about Americans or Brits are really necessary.  As far as these talky, self-obsessed protagonists go, you might as well stop at D.H. Lawrence in terms of the way this genre of novel is interesting to an audience beyond the people portrayed (which presumably includes the England based editorial staff of the 1001 Books project.)

  It's hard to make the case that any mainline English novel written after World War II deserves inclusion.  That may be an exaggeration, but it's true that there is little exciting happening in the English novel after World War II.

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