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Ronald Blythe

24 January 1980
A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature 
by Margaret Drabble.
Thames and Hudson, 133 pp., £10.50, October 1980, 0 500 01219 9
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... When Margaret Drabble says that, like Trollope, ‘Henry James admires the inimitable, unpurchasable gleam of time’, and describes his Poynton as ‘a Mentmore in miniature’, or when she writes of ‘the allegorical significance and sexual innuendo of the medieval garden’, or remarks that architectural irregularity, to English eyes, ‘seems to be a key, a touchstone, a mystic pledge of some indefinable authenticity’, or calls Dickens ‘the great poet of pollution’, or reminds us that, in Wordsworth’s time, ‘the love of nature seemed almost to replace the love of mankind,’ or says a thousand other such things as she wanders through the settings of our stories and poetry, it becomes obvious that we are in for a new look at this celebrated scenery ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode

6 June 1985
The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... updated in three subsequent editions and many reprints. It has now been extensively re-edited by Margaret Drabble, aided by an impressive list of experts. The original editor, Sir Paul Harvey, explained that his intention was to be useful to ordinary everyday readers. He offered the dates and brief biographies of a large number of English ...

Dark Spaces

Dinah Birch

28 September 1989
People of the Black Mountains: The Beginning 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 361 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 7011 2845 3
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The Politics of Modernism 
by Raymond Williams.
Verso, 208 pp., £24, August 1989, 0 86091 241 8
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A Natural Curiosity 
by Margaret Drabble.
Viking, 309 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 670 82837 8
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... might have argued that our hunger for the strange is based on nothing more than curiosity. Margaret Drabble, taking this distracting appetite as the central theme of her confident and marvellously accomplished new novel, gives full weight to the price we pay for our attempts to satisfy curiosity about the unknowable. Like Raymond Williams, she ...

Gaiety

Frank Kermode

8 June 1995
Angus Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... story, but it is also the sort of thing that he himself would in principle have deplored. As Margaret Drabble emphasises, he disliked that anti-American reflex, attributing it (perhaps too simply) to simple envy. He loved the USA, where he had dozens of friends, whom he treated, so far as one can tell, with his usual amiability and generosity. Yet ...

Speaking for England

Patrick Parrinder

21 May 1987
The Radiant Way 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 396 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 297 79095 1
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Change 
by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 224 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 9780413576408
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Moon Tiger 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 233 98107 1
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The Maid of Buttermere 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 415 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 340 40173 7
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Stray 
by A.N. Wilson.
Walker, 175 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 7445 0801 0
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... silence. That was The Ice Age (1977), but there are very similar passages in The Radiant Way. Margaret Drabble’s later novels are settled, capacious, Condition-of-England chronicles, prolonged ruminations on the way we live now. Echoes of the classic novelists are much in evidence. There is an abundance of lists of small facts and of local ...
21 May 1981
Jane Austen’s ‘Sir Charles Grandison’ 
edited by Brian Southam.
Oxford, 150 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 19 812637 9
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... begins his Introduction to ‘Grandison’ by quoting the apparently prophetic observation of Margaret Drabble in 1974. Ever since she said it, there has been a run of near misses or all-buts, beginning with Another Lady’s completion of Jane Austen’s fragment ‘Sanditon’, and continuing with someone else’s notion of ‘The ...
18 September 1980
... New Mexico, too, along with a group of other British writers – Stephen Spender, Richard Hoggart, Margaret Drabble, Al Alvarez – and various Beat American poets and novelists (California vintage ’57), and academics from different universities, to consider such issues as ‘D. H. Lawrence and his Influence on Modern Society’ and ‘D. H. Lawrence ...

Madly Excited

John Bayley

1 June 1989
The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. I: 1904-1939 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 783 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 224 02654 2
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... enough to be Little Me. There is, nonetheless, a remarkable similarity in technique between, say, Margaret Drabble and Graham Greene. Both create an entirely coherent romance world, powered by variations on self-satisfaction, in Greene’s case masquerading as self-disgust. In both cases this is highly transmissible to the reader. Every decade has its ...

Drabble’s Progress

John Sutherland

5 December 1991
The Gates of Ivory 
by Margaret Drabble.
Viking, 464 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 670 84270 2
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Happily Ever After 
by Jenny Diski.
Hamish Hamilton, 245 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 241 13169 3
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Of Love and Asthma 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Heinemann, 321 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 0 434 47993 4
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... Some readers do not much like Margaret Drabble’s later novels because they are so different from her earlier successes. She may have lost one public and not as yet entirely won over another. Her novel writing career began brilliantly and precociously with A Summer Bird-Cage (1963), published when she was 24 ...

Diary

A.J. Ayer: More of A.J. Ayer’s Life

22 December 1983
... came with me and we spent a very pleasant day at Bard. My fellow honorands included the novelist Margaret Drabble, the exceptionally learned ancient historian, Professor Momigliano, who had been a colleague of mine for many years at University College, London, and Professor Kolakowski whom I first met at a congress in Warsaw in 1957 when he was still a ...

Crowing

Michael Rogin

5 September 1996
Imagineering Atlanta 
by Charles Rutheiser.
Verso, 324 pp., £44.95, July 1996, 1 85984 800 1
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... paused only at the three sacred sites that anchor Atlanta’s claim to world fame – the homes of Margaret Mitchell, Martin Luther King Jr and Coca-Cola. Seen through Rutheiser’s ironic, cold eye these nodes mark the fault lines of a disintegrative urban history. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, the most popular ...

Faulting the Lemon

James Wood: Iris Murdoch

1 January 1998
Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 546 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 7011 6629 0
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... realism’; but her realism is seldom deep enough to warrant its self-consciousness. Margaret Drabble appears to want to combine Dickens and Woolf, to combine caricature and experimental forms, but can create neither vivid caricatures nor daring experiments. Martin Amis seems to want to borrow that very faculty – soul – about which he is ...

Stuck in Chicago

Linda Colley

12 November 1987
Women 
by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 1165 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 7043 2625 6
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... less adept at poetry? Why some uses of words rather than others? What is the point in interviewing Margaret Drabble, Victoria Glendinning and Marina Warner, but failing to discuss such matters? Yet for all the evident faults and the egregious condescension of this book, it does almost despite itself have some value. The women interviewed confirm yet again ...

Mini-Whoppers

Patrick Parrinder

7 July 1988
Forty Stories 
by Donald Barthelme.
Secker, 256 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 436 03424 7
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Tiny Lies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02560 0
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Ellen Foster 
by Kaye Gibbons.
Cape, 146 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 224 02529 5
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After the War 
by Frederick Raphael.
Collins, 528 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 00 223352 5
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... the War: at more than five hundred pages it aspires to the status of a grand social saga à la Margaret Drabble or C.P. Snow. Michael Jordan, sensitive and Jewish, has his first introduction to English mores at a boarding-school evacuated to the coast of North Devon. After the war he grows up to become a successful TV dramatist not unlike Raphael ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts

7 November 1991
The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... of Opinion’ more specific, criticising Malcolm Bradbury and Christopher Bigsby for presenting Margaret Drabble and John Le Carré as ‘most important writers’. He goes on to reproach the same critics for appealing to a ‘supposed consensus’ and for the use of the phrase ‘our time’, which Hill glosses as ‘your time made placable to our ...

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